Morning Report: November 21, 2005

Sharon forms new political party. The face of politics is changing, in Israel as elsewhere. OSM: 'Israeli president Moshe Katsav has announced that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, in a meeting at his residence earlier this morning, has requested that he dissolve the Knesset, according to the Jerusalem Post, which also reports that Katsav indicated that he would approve such a decision.' A recent bulletin from Debka reports: 'Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, at the first meeting of his new list, Party of National Responsibility, promised to follow the Middle East road map, wage a relentless war on terror and refrain from further disengagements. The meeting was attended by 12 MKs. Earlier, Monday, Nov. 21, he sent a letter to Likud resigning from the party. He also visited President Katzav and asked him to dissolve the Knesset for an early election. Sharon informed the president that his government is faced with a hostile Knesset majority and therefore unable to functional effectively. The president will consult with party leaders for a Knesset member able to form an alternative government supported by a 61-member majority. He has 21 days grace before dissolving the Knesset for an early election 90 hence. Arutz Sheva writes: 'Prime Minister Sharon ended the suspense that gripped the country for a number of weeks, and made known his decision around midnight Sunday night: He will not run for the Likud Party leadership, but will rather quit and form his own new party. The reason, apparently, is as Binyamin Netanyahu - his main challenger for the party leadership - said on Friday: "Sharon knows that the Likud as a party will never accept his dictates for additional withdrawals, in the framework of the Roadmap or in a unilateral and arbitrary manner, as happened in Gush Katif. Every territorial compromise in the future will be contingent upon a referendum. Therefore, he has been left with no choice but to [try to] carry out his policies via a different party."' The Jerusalem Post has this on the new party: 'Hours after the first meeting of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's newly formed National Responsibility Party, the head of the Likud secretariat, Agriculture Minister Yisrael Katz, instructed the Likud administration to issue restraining orders against Sharon and all the members of his new party to prevent them from approaching the Likud headquarters. ... "The upcoming election campaign will be a tough one but I am certain we will win it," Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said on Monday during the first meeting of his new centrist party - the National Responsibility party (Ahrayut Leumit ). I thank you for your courage. I know that you are exposed to pressure and threats. This was a difficult decision and I respect that you took it upon yourselves," Sharon said.' (OSM, Debka, A7, JPost)

Eight terrorists killed in Mosul; speculation on Zarqawi played down. As Dreams Into Lightning reported extensively yesterday, some early reports on a firefight in Mosul, Iraq, in which eight terrorists were killed, suggested that Abu Mousab Zarqawi might be among the dead. However, the US government is stating that speculation on the demise of the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq is "highly unliekly and not credible." ABC news has this update: 'The U.S. Army's Stryker brigade has carried out a number of operations against suspected terrorist strongholds in the last few months and when three men blew themselves up rather than be captured on Saturday, it led to speculation one was Zarqawi. Jordanian intelligence officials tell ABC News that Zarqawi has sworn never to be taken alive by the United States, and travels with a suicide explosives belt. U.S. officials were hoping that the tide had turned against Zarqawi following his group's claim of responsibility for an attack on a Muslim wedding in Jordan. His attempt last week to explain or apologize in an Internet audio broadcast was seen by many as admission of failure. ... "When Zarqawi says 'accidentally the roof fell in on the wedding,' I think the truth is the roof fell in on Zarqawi," said ABC News consultant Richard Clarke, a former U.S. counterterrorism official.' Full post at the link. (various; ABC)