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No Laughing Matter

By Michael Freund
1/13/2005, 12:00 AM

Well, it seems, the joke is on us.

The so-called Likud rebels in the Knesset had a chance to force Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to go to elections, but instead they capitulated and gave him the votes he needed this week to pass the state budget on its initial reading.

Full of bluster and tough talk, the rebels speak menacingly about how they will vote against the budget in the future if Sharon does not agree to a national referendum regarding his Gaza withdrawal plan. Sounding like characters from one of comedian Jackie Mason’s well-known routines, the “rebels” now threaten that next time, they are really, really, really going to let Sharon have it if he dares to cross them again.

Yeah, right.

Knesset_photo Essentially, what the “rebels” accomplished this week was to pave the way for a broadening of the coalition government. Less than 24 hours after they gave Sharon the majority he wanted in parliament, the Prime Minister was busy meeting with Shas Party Chairman Eli Yishai in an attempt to entice him to join the government.

With the United Torah Judaism party already providing the coalition with a religious imprimatur, it probably won’t take long for Shas to enter as well, thereby cementing Sharon in power and bringing the Gaza retreat that much closer.

And should it come to that, it will be thanks, at least in part, to those very same “rebels” who when given the opportunity, couldn’t even muster up the courage to rebel.