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Netanyahu called in to spin for Israel

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Monday asked
former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to "join
the Israeli public relations system and lend his
skills to Israel."
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Monday asked
former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to "join
the Israeli public relations system and lend his
skills to Israel."

Sharon, who called Netanyahu with the request,
agreed to meet his predecessor next Sunday at the
Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, in order to discuss ways in which
Netanyahu can be integrated into Israel's public relations service. It will be the
first meeting between the two since Sharon took office more than a year ago.

Over the past year, Netanyahu has been one of Sharon's harshest critics,
especially on government policy regarding the Palestinians. Close associates
of Sharon, in turn, have not refrained from criticizing Netanyahu, and have
accused him of "incitement" against Sharon.

Before the phone call, the Prime Minster's Office released an official statement
calling on Netanyahu to join the Israeli PR bandwagon while Israel "conducts a
military operation to eradicate the terror infrastructure."

The statement followed a letter sent Tuesday morning to Sharon by Gilad Arden,
chairman of the Likud youth movement, proposing that Sharon ask Netanyahu
to officially represent the government in the foreign press.

Sharon did not hurry in replying to the letter, but the PMO said in response that
Netanyahu appears dozens of times a week in the foreign press "as part of
efforts to protect and improve Israel's status in the world."

Netanyahu's office said that the former prime minister approached Sharon and
offered his services immediately after last June's suicide bombing at the
Dolphinarium in Tel Aviv, but did not receive a response.

The Prime Minister's Office released its statement following a press conference
held Monday afternoon in Tel Aviv attended by Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.
Netanyahu aides, who heard of the move through the press, said that it was a
gimmick, and no more. "Once again the PMO has made an empty statement
which was released to the press, and not to Netanyahu, as is accepted," they
said.

The Labor Party expressed concern that Netanyahu would become the official
Israeli spokesman, perhaps even speaking on behalf of Peres. Labor sources
said that Netanyahu had a tendency to slam the Oslo peace accords and the
foreign minister during his regular appearances in the media.

"If he does so now, as the official Israeli representative, it could cause serious
problems and tension between Sharon and Peres," they said.
 
 

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