JERUSALEM — Ariel Sharon, Israel's hawkish former defense minister, launched a campaign Friday to oust Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in the 1996 elections, declaring his intention to form a broad right-wing coalition and lead "a rescue mission to save the Land of Israel and the Jewish people."
But Sharon's announcement was more a challenge to Benjamin Netanyahu, chairman of the opposition Likud Party, who has been feuding with Sharon.
Netanyahu angrily demanded Sharon's expulsion from the party.
"Arik Sharon is a permanent subversive," he declared. "The time has come for such a man to leave Likud."
Sharon laughed off Netanyahu's demand, replying, "I hope Mr. Netanyahu will at least permit me to stay in the country."
Former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, defeated by Rabin two years ago, tartly rebuked Sharon, saying he "should find more useful things to do in the national interest than undermine it."
Zeev (Benny) Begin, the son of the late Prime Minister Menachem Begin and a longtime Sharon foe, said that the burly former general is as likely to win the premiership as he is the world tennis championship.