TEL AVIV - It's been a long road for former Russian refusenik Natan Sharansky, who has been wooed by both major political parties. He held out for more.
Now, Mr. Sharansky, 48, is poised to become one of 120 members of the Knesset, or parliament, at the head of his own political party in Israel's election, which will be held Wednesday.
Further, he is likely to sit in the next Cabinet, perhaps as minister of immigrant absorption. It would be a fitting post for a man whose fate came to symbolize the struggle by Soviet Jews for the right to leave for Israel. He arrived in the Jewish state 10 years ago.
Analysts believe his party - Israel Ba-Aliyah, a play on the Hebrew words for immigration and "the way up" - will receive from four to six seats in the Knesset.
The party also may be among the first to join as a partner in the next government. Labor Party Secretary-General Nissim Zvilli says he expects Mr. Sharansky's party will join with Labor, which would need a coalition to gain a Knesset majority.
Leaders of the immigrants' party - which has not officially endorsed either Prime Minister Shimon Peres or his opponent, Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu - say some of their demands must be met before they would agree to join any coalition.
Mr. Sharansky apparently knows he will be invited to join the next government, regardless of who wins, and he doesn't want to alienate anyone in his diverse crowd of supporters. But his sympathies are believed to lie with Mr. Netanyahu, a personal friend, and he has been critical of Mr. Peres' vision of a new Middle East in which Arabs and Jews co-exist.
"The bombs in Tel Aviv, Ashkelon and Jerusalem blew up our false dream about the new Middle East," Mr. Sharansky said after four suicide bombers in February and March killed 59 persons, including several Russian immigrants.
Among the goals in the party's platform is providing cheaper housing in Israel - a major problem in a country where real estate prices are extremely high - and improving what they consider to be a deteriorating education system.
They also want to make it easier for recent immigrants to find work. This is the biggest problem in the Russian community, where only a small percentage of the newcomers are working in their vocations.
The party wants to promote multiculturalism in Israel. "The …