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Lots of Rumors on the Campaign Trail

Monday, August 27, 2001 | Tag Cloud Tags: , ,

The unofficial three-way race for prime minister is also a three-way rumor mill, as conspiracy charges swirled in recent days between the rival camps of Labor nominee Ehud Barak, Likud's Ariel Sharon and virtual candidate Shimon Peres.

Over the weekend, sources on the campaign staff of caretaker Prime Minister Ehud Barak charged that high-ranking officials on Sharon's team were conspiring with the grass-roots organization trying to draft Peres, all in order to undermine Barak's re-election effort. By Monday, however, the accusations appeared to be baseless, as a Barak aide explained he had simply suggested to an Israeli TV reporter there might be contacts between Sharon and Peres, since two of their top assistants were once business partners. Nonetheless, Sharon's close aide Lior Horev threatened to sue Meretz MK Avshalom Vilan over his accusations of a conspiracy between Horev and his ex-partner, Shmuel Cohen, the director of the "Let Peres Win" organization. Cohen's group was expected to announce this afternoon it is ceasing its activities.

The Barak and Sharon camps also swapped similar charges over the source of a story on Israel TV CHANNEL ONE alleging a haredi businessman was raising large sums of money abroad to fund a possible last-minute Peres candidacy.

Peres has denied having any connection to "Let Peres Win," and complained that he is being criticized by both the Sharon campaign and ministers loyal to Barak. "The Likud has started a campaign against me. Barak allies are attacking me, even though they know that I am not a candidate, so I don't know why they are doing it," Peres told a pro-Barak rally in Bat Yam. "Our common enemy is Ariel Sharon. You can trust me that there will not be any division in the Left."

Meanwhile, the Barak team kept grumbling that they will not see better results in the polls until Peres closes the door for good on a possible challenge to Barak. "Our polls show that the minute virtual candidate Peres leaves the race, we will go up a lot," a Barak campaign spokesman said. "Until Peres is no longer a virtual candidate, we can't go up in the polls."

New polling results announced last night by Geocartography, however, indicated that if Peres makes it completely clear that he will not be a candidate, Barak would only succeed in bridging the nearly twenty percent gap with Sharon by a mere one percent. The survey also found that Peres is losing ground to Sharon and would lose by as much as eight percent if an election were held today.

In his election commercials last night, Barak came out strongly in favor of continuing his secular reform program, and confessed that he made a mistake by forming a government with Shas. He called upon Shinui to join his coalition if he wins the election.

Shas spokesman Yitzhak Sudri responded, "Barak has decided to run an extremist anti-religious, anti-Sephardi campaign full of lies and incitement." And Shinui head Tommy Lapid said, "It's too bad that Barak only remembers the secular population during campaigns.

Used with Permission from International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.

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