Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is set to quit his ruling Likud party and run separately in next year's elections, Israeli army radio reports.
Mr Sharon reportedly made the decision to leave the party he helped to found in 1973 after lengthy talks with aides.
Earlier, the moderate Labour party under new leader Amir Peretz voted to leave Mr Sharon's coalition.
The BBC's James Reynolds says there has been no word from Mr Sharon, but it is significant there has been no denial.
The 77-year-old prime minister is expected to make an announcement on Monday, Israeli media reports.
Polly e-mails to note the above, "Sharon 'set to quit Likud party'" (BBC). And it's apparently official to read some of the articles sent in by Kara from Haaretz. We'll note Yossi Verter's
"Analysis: Ariel Sharon's new faction is a one-term party:"
A Sharon aide met Sunday with a senior political figure from one of the factions. "Come with us," the aide said. "We are on the verge of making history. You can't miss this opportunity." The figure declined the offer for the obvious reason - what spot on the list would he receive in the Arik Party. Sixth or seventh is already no-man's land. If this figure runs for the Knesset in his current home, he would have a better chance of finishing higher on his party list, enabling him to serve the State of Israel in the next coalition. Without favors from Arik. Without begging Omri to put in a good word to his dad.
Sharon's associates continued to insist Sunday that he has yet to decide while in the same breath stepped up preparations for takeoff. The weekly cabinet session on Sunday resembled the characteristic ending to an episode of "Benny Hill", when the frame moves into fast-forward and all the characters run in circles after one another.
Everyone exchanged whispers with one another in open circles and closed circles. Ehud Olmert, Sharon's guy, attracted the most attention while conversing with Ministers Tzipi Livni and Meir Sheetrit. Everything was out in the open, yet, at the same time, secret and ambiguous.
Sharon met Sunday morning with the heads of the ultra-Orthodox Knesset factions. United Torah Judaism MKs Moshe Gafni and Avraham Ravitz came to Sharon armed with the opinion of Rabbi Aharon Leib Steinman. He shouldn't quit, the rabbi said, it will not be good for him.
Alex e-mails to note "British Embassy Inquires Why Rights Lawyer Refused Entry" (Reuters via The Moscow Times):
London has asked Moscow to explain why it barred a British lawyer from entering Russia to observe the trial of a journalist who published an article by a Chechen rebel leader, the British Embassy said on Friday.
Human rights groups said on Tuesday that Bill Bowring had been detained at Sheremetyevo airport, questioned for four hours and finally refused entry despite having a valid Russian visa.
"We have concerns and we are quite surprised. We have taken up our concerns with the [Foreign Ministry] at a high level," said Alan Holmes, an embassy spokesman. "This type of event is extremely rare in our experience."
Pru e-mails to note The Socialist Worker's "Why France is in revolt" by Jim Wolfreys with photographs by Jess Hurd:
The events in France over the last three weeks are more than a riot -- they are an urban uprising on a scale not seen in Western Europe since the Second World War.
The French government, backed by the media and parts of the left, has tried to present this uprising as the work of "hooligans" or "criminal gangs".
But with over 6,000 cars torched by the start of this week and more than 2,500 people arrested in towns and cities as far apart as Paris, Carpentras, Lyon and Toulouse, the riots represent a major challenge to the French elite which has sent a political shockwave across the continent.
Quite simply, young people from the poorest areas of France's cities are fighting back in their tens of thousands against decades of poverty and racism.
"France has two faces," says Malik, one of several young people who spoke to Socialist Worker in the Seine-Saint-Denis suburb, north of Paris, which has been at the heart of the rioting.
"The first is the one they show the world -- we're a democratic country, lots of museums, the Champs Elysées, the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the good life, fine wine, and all that," he says.
"It's not true. Here, it's miserable poverty. We live here, we grew up here. And now we've started burning it, they're talking about doing this up, renovating that. But until we did anything, they'd left us for dead."
The riots began on 27 October in Clichy-sous-Bois, after two teenagers were electrocuted in a power substation after being chased by the police.
There has still been no official expression of regret for their deaths. Instead interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy has backed police denials that they had been chasing the teenagers. Those lies are contradicted by the testimony of an injured survivor from his hospital bed.
Existing tensions in the suburbs have been deliberately stoked for some time by Sarkozy, who is positioning himself as the mainstream right's alternative to Jean-Marie Le Pen of the fascist Front National.
During the summer Sarkozy had boasted of dealing with the "hooligans" in the suburbs by "cleaning them out with Karcher (a power hose)".
Then, two days before the rioting started, he marched into the Argenteuil suburb of Paris and declared on national television, with the jeers of local youth ringing in his ears, "We are going to get rid of this racaille (rabble or scum)."
On 28 October police in Clichy fired tear gas into a mosque and humiliated those who fled the building. Fury at state racism and injustice meant others were quick to take action.
This is how a group of young people described what happened on the Cité des 3,000 estate in Aulnay-sous-Bois, not far from Clichy:
"We saw what was happening in Clichy, so we met up and said we have to do something in the Cité des 3,000 too. It was about having pride in the reputation of our estate. What the police did in Clichy made people full of hate. And what Sarkozy said about the youth -- it was a provocation."
Momo from Aulnay says, "Before, with the other areas, it was war. Now we're all together."
Although much of the media debate tends to portray events as some kind of "ethnic conflict", focusing mostly on the question of immigration and six million Muslims, this is a movement which involves French working class youth in all its diversity.
"You mustn't say it's just the immigrants taking part in all this," says one young man in Aulnay.
"It's not just the Muslims and the blacks and the Arabs involved. There's the Portuguese, the Vietnamese, the French. They always generalise and say, 'It's the blacks and the Arabs.' But it's all races together, all those who live in the suburbs."
Youth unemployment on the Cité des 3,000 estate, as in most of France's poorest suburbs, runs at close to 50 percent. "They don't talk about jobs," says Rachid. "If we had more jobs, young people wouldn't hang around the area in the evening. They would've been thinking about work the next morning. If we had a job we wouldn't be against anything. But we've got nothing, that's why we're against everything."
The Tory government, weak and divided, has responded to the uprising by lashing out. Last week Sarkozy threatened to deport all foreign nationals who have been arrested -- there are many legal immigrants who have residency papers but are denied French citizenship.
A state of emergency has been declared in the suburbs, giving local authorities the right to impose curfews, by reviving colonial legislation first introduced during the Algerian war of independence in the 1950s.
The French establishment has closed its doors to the population of the suburbs when it comes to decent housing or schools.
It has frozen them out of regular employment and deprived them of the means to enjoy proper facilities for leisure and culture.
It has subjected them to the daily humiliation of racist policing and told Muslim girls that it will decide what they wear on their heads. Now the French state is drawing on its colonial past to keep the revolt in check.
"We will remain in the suburbs," announced the head of France’s riot police last weekend, "in order to reconquer these territories."
The reaction of the people we spoke to in Seine-Saint-Denis was defiant. To those who deplore the fact that gymnasiums and schools are burning along with the cars, they gave this response, "The gymnasium round here is always closed--so we burn it. We were always getting thrown out of the schools -- we burn them.
"The shops and malls where we never get jobs -- we burn them. A hundred people work at Renault here, but not a single young person from this estate -- so we burn it.
"If there's no change, it's not going to stop."
'It's more than desperation'
"This is a movement," says Isaac, from Saint-Denis. "It wouldn't have lasted so long if there wasn't something behind it.
"If it was just to have fun, it would have maybe lasted a night.
"If it's lasted this long it's because it's really for a cause. They say we're desperate, but it's more than that.
"This movement is against politicians who talk but have nothing to say and are useless. We're against that, so we're not going to start doing the same thing. We want to act.
"Sarkozy, he takes action, but in a wrong way. Well, we want to take action too, but in the right way."
The following should be read alongside this article: » 'All the state offers us now is repression'» Roots of revolt» Crisis deepens across the political spectrum» Law and order rhetoric that masks social injustice» Do riots achieve anything?
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