Prime Minister Sharon was greeted with boos and whistles last night at the Likud convention, in his first appearance before the party faithful since his Aqaba promise to destroy outposts and grant territorial contiguity to a PLO state.
Only about 1,000 of the 3,000 Likud Central Committee members showed up in Binyanei HaUmah Convention Hall in Jerusalem last night, but most of them appeared to be vociferously against a Palestinian state and the Road Map. When Sharon arrived and the delegates began whistling and booing, Likud Dir.-Gen. Arik Brami gave the order to play - very loudly - the Likud jingle, but the ploy did not work; the jeering was still heard above the music. Similarly, the many signs saying, "Sharon Surrenders to Terrorism," "Road Map of Illusions," and the like were clearly seen from every angle.
Speakers who attacked Sharon's plan were MKs David Levy, Gideon Saar, Yechiel Chazan, and Deputy Minister Michael Ratzon, as well as Moshe Feiglin. Minister Uzi Landau, who voted against the Road Map in the Cabinet, was roundly cheered during his speech.
Former three-time Foreign Minister David Levy said, "Ehud Barak once said that the Oslo Agreement is as full of holes as Swiss cheese - but the Road Map is one big hole altogether!" He said that if a Labor government had tried to implement this plan, "we would have cried out that the government is abandoning the Land!"
Minister Uzi Landau: "In Aqaba, [Israel's] blue and white flag became just a white flag [of surrender]. Terrorism has won… The Road Map is the most dangerous document Israel has ever faced… The Oslo tragedy will be nothing compared to [the catastrophe of] the Road Map."
Ratzon said that Sharon's recent declarations in favor of a PLO state and against "occupation" is a "sea of left-wing terminology." He said that Sharon is simply rehashing the mistakes of Oslo instead of learning from them.
Moshe Feiglin, considered the leader of hundreds of Likud delegates and whose bid to become a Knesset Member was foiled largely because the Supreme Court judges said he did not fill out the required forms in time, said that though the Road Map is a "terrible, insane, and blood-dripping plan," he is not afraid of it: "As a believing Jew, I know that no one can stop the Divine process of the Land of Israel returning to the People of Israel."
MK Gideon Saar: "The Road Map is a historic mistake… bad for Israel… against everything that the Likud teaches and fights for."
MK Gilad Erdan: "Mr. Prime Minister, there is no difference between the conquest of 1948 and that of 1967. The settlers in Haifa, Ramat Aviv [northern Tel Aviv], and Jaffa use exactly the same rights to their homes as do the settlers in Judea and Samaria and in eastern Jerusalem."
The big winner of the evening was Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who began by supporting Sharon's plan - but then said that it was unworkable because the Palestinians could not be trusted to stop terrorism. He emphasized the need to stop terrorism and incitement, maintain the unity of Jerusalem, and ensure that Israel retains crucial security zones. "Judea and Samaria is our home!" he declared, saying that he would agree to local self-rule for the Arabs who live there.
Sharon himself gave a very calm speech, adding nothing to what he has previously said:
"I brought a great victory to the Likud and its path in the last election, and this places a great responsibility upon us for Israel's future… I will bring security, and I will also bring peace… The victory over terrorism is within our grasp… If the PA leadership does not act against terrorism, it will get nothing… We will stand firm on our 14 reservations, and we will not repeat the mistakes of the past." He did not mention a Palestinian state, and said nothing about yesterday's five victims of Palestinian terrorism. Aides later explained that Mofaz and Olmert had mentioned the fallen soldiers before his speech, such that he saw no reason to mention them again.
Defense Minister Mofaz and Foreign Minister Shalom defended Sharon's position, but received only mild jeering compared to those that greeted Minister Ehud Olmert. Olmert, who has become something of a left-wing dove since leaving the Jerusalem mayoralty a few months ago, returned some jeering of his own towards the anti-Road Map crowd: "I was hoping that the hall would be full of anti-Road Map signs, so that we could show the US how hard it is for us to implement this plan - but unfortunately, hardly any of you came…"
Sharon proposed that a small forum of Likud ministers, headed by him, determine the party's mayoral candidates in the various cities. The delegates voted decisively against the idea, 366-272. Instead, the party will hold local primaries before each municipal election. Anti-Road Map groups in the party said that now local party officials need not fear coming out against Sharon and the Road Map, as he will not have a direct influence in determining the party's local candidates.
Political commentator Shalom Yerushalmi told Arutz-7 today that Sharon can use the "gimmick" of sacrificing his party popularity for what is perceived as the public good "only once or twice," but no more: "In the long run, a party leader knows that his strength lies in the party, and if he leaves his home port, he is liable to find himself stranded in the middle of the ocean." In addition to the boos that Sharon suffered last night and the loss in the above municipal vote, the party's central committee voted against Sharon's idea for a Palestinian state several months ago.