Ariel Sharon is leaving Likud.

Could he actually be tired of his hawkish ways?

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will announce on Monday that he intends to quit the Likud and form a new centrist political party, sources close to Sharon said on Sunday.

Sharon is to visit President Moshe Katsav on Monday and ask him to dissolve the Knesset. This would set off a process that would lead to elections in 90 days, unless an MK succeeds in forming a new coalition within the next three weeks.

Sharon will not rely on a bill to disperse the Knesset that was set for Monday and delayed until Wednesday because Shas declined to remove its no-confidence motion from Monday’s Knesset agenda.

The prime minister was due to make an announcement before Monday’s Likud faction meeting.

And what about Binyamin Netanyahu?

When Sharon leaves the Likud, the race to succeed him as party chairman is expected to be tight. Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, Education Minister Limor Livnat and Agriculture Minister Yisrael Katz announced that they would join former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Likud rebel leader Uzi Landau and party activist Moshe Feiglin in the race.

Netanyahu addressed Likud activists in Afula and Migdal Ha’emek on Sunday and he is expected to open his Tel Aviv campaign office later this week.

“I don’t know what Sharon will decide but I am staying in the Likud,” Netanyahu told supporters in Migdal Ha’emek. “A decision has to be made soon so we can all unite around the party’s policies.” Netanyahu Sunday called Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, Transportation Minister Meir Sheetrit, Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra and Edri and asked them to remain in the Likud.

Interesting times ahread in Israel…

But what exact kind of centrist do you think Sharon will be?

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