Dan Meridor goes solo Benny Begin forms own party

In addition to Meridor's decision, Shahak was also apparently disappointed over indications that Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai may be patching up his rift with Netanyahu.

Mordechai must declare his intentions by Sunday, the deadline for putting names on the party ballot for Knesset candidates. The Likud central committee will elect the Knesset list on Feb. 8.

Shahak also said he will not accept Labor Knesset member Yossi Beilin's invitation to join Labor. "I was never a Labor Party member, and I am offering a new political direction," Shahak said.

On Sunday, prime ministerial candidate Begin registered his new party, Herut.

The top names on the list of founders are Yehiel Kadishai, former chief of staff for the late Prime Minister Menachem Begin; Shmuel Katz, a former Knesset member; Yoram Aridor, a former finance minister; Yossef Ben-Shlomo, a philosopher and professor; Moshe Peretz, former Ramle mayor; and Zvai Leumi, a former Irgun member.

The party outlined its key policy targets: working to increase settlement throughout Israel and the territories; Jerusalem as the unified capital; and territory, including the Golan Heights, remaining in Israeli hands.

Meanwhile, Landau announced last Friday that he has withdrawn from the race for leadership of the Likud. Landau asserted that former Defense Minister Moshe Arens had a better chance of beating Netanyahu.

The move reduced the battle at Likud's Monday primaries to a contest between Netanyahu and Arens, who announced last week that he would challenge his old protege for the party leadership.

On other fronts, senior Labor Knesset member Uzi Baram decided this week to remain in the Labor Party, despite his recent differences with leader Ehud Barak.

The two met Sunday in a bid to iron out their differences, following the decision of Jewish Agency Chairman Avraham Burg not to defect from Labor.

Yet new turmoil engulfed the Labor Party on Monday, as Knesset member Haim Ramon announced that he will not seek re-election. Labor Knesset member Nissim Zvilli went one step further than Ramon this week and announced his resignation from the party, saying it has become a "one-man" show under Barak.