According to Israel Television, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon plans to break away from his ruling Likud party and call early elections. He is considering this drastic step, after Likud rebels engineered an embarrassing defeat for Sharon in a Knesset (parliament) vote. The hawkish rebels want to punish Sharon for pulling out of the Gaza Strip and dismantling 21 Jewish settlements there. "He cannot work like this," said the television's political correspondent Ayala Hasson. "If elections are moved up, Sharon will launch a new party." The Gaza pullout has made Sharon extremely popular with the public at large, and polls show that if he forms a new centrist party, it would win big in elections.
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