Prime Minister Ariel Sharon narrowly won a crucial vote in his ruling Likud party, fending off a leadership challenge from former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu wanted to oust Sharon because he defied traditional Likud ideology by pulling out of Gaza and dismantling 21 settlements. But by a margin of just 104 votes, the hawkish 3,000-member Likud Central Committee rejected Netanyahu's bid to advance elections for the party leadership to November—five months ahead of schedule. Now, Sharon will remain at the helm of the Likud at least until April, when elections for the party leadership will take place.
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