Netanyahu Is Israeli Foreign Minister,
Eyes Top Job
former leader Benjamin Netanyahu became foreign minister on
Wednesday, ending more than three years in the political wilderness
with a pledge to be tough on the Palestinians and an eye on
the top job.
Netanyahu, ousted as prime minister in May 1999, joined Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon's government but vowed to challenge
him for the leadership of their right-wing Likud party and
lead it into an early general election.
Opinion polls show Likud winning the election -- expected
to take place in January -- which Sharon called this week
after the center-left Labour Party bolted his coalition
in a spat over funds for Jewish settlements.
"The public seeks a way out of the country's quagmire
and the man to lead it out. I believe I have the way
and the solutions and that most of the public knows this as
well," said Netanyahu, 53, popularly known as "Bibi."
my assessment is that I will be able to lead the country in
the future," Netanyahu told Israel Radio after taking
the standard parliamentary oath as foreign minister, a job
vacated by Labour's Shimon Peres.
Both Likud and Labour, Israel's two main parties, will hold
leadership elections before the national vote. Netanyahu said
he would challenge Sharon for the Likud leadership in a party
primary expected within a month.
A Knesset spokesman said a parliament committee would vote
on Monday to set an election date, initially expected to be
Netanyahu said he had discussed with Sharon a U.S.-led peace
plan calling for a Palestinian state after violence ends and
the Palestinian Authority carries out reforms.
Sharon calculated that bringing Netanyahu into his team would
both curb his rival's criticism of the prime minister
before the Likud primary and give Israel an eloquent defender
abroad of the tough government line on the Palestinian uprising.
For Netanyahu, returning to government -- even with Sharon
as his boss -- brings him back to the public stage and gives
him a high-profile platform for his hawkish security
stance and his recipe for reviving the economy through
Netanyahu said he did not need a "long adjustment period"
and could handle the foreign ministry brief while campaigning
for higher office.