Daily Israel Report

Should Right-Wing Parties Quit?

Arutz-7 radio yesterday hosted an exchange between two leaders of the "national camp" regarding the question of whether or not right-wing parties should quit the coalition in light of government policies.
First Publish: 8/14/2003, 7:52 PM

Pinchas Wallerstein, long-time Binyamin Regional Council head, began by saying: "It's quite clear that Sharon cannot be influenced from within, so it's time to do it from without." He first explained the economic problems: "It was Chaim Ramon, of all people [a Labor member], who, when he was Interior Minister, told us that even though ‘we have to evacuate or deport you from here, we don't have to torture you’ - and he was the first one to give us some benefits of a front-line community. Now along comes Shinui's Interior Minister, Avraham Poraz, and removes all these benefits and tax breaks, even while those in the Galilee remain. [Residents of many parts of the Galilee receive 13% tax breaks, while the 5-7% cuts in Judea, Samaria and Gaza (Yesha) have just been rescinded.] The right-wing MKs have not succeeded in nullifying this decree, and others. But the bottom line is that the problem is not financial; the public simply does not take the whole situation very seriously, no matter how serious it really is, when they see that the National Union and the NRP are in the coalition. They think all our protests and complaints are just for show, and that it really can't be all that bad."

Tzvi Hendel, of the National Union party, responded: "The dilemma that he presents is a real one. To my mind, the question boils down to this: Is there still a chance to bring this government to turn to the right, or not? We have had several meetings with right-wing Likud MKs, who come running to us whenever they hear that there's a chance that we might quit the coalition; they come running to us and ask us not to. They say that if we leave, then all their efforts to persuade a minister or two to vote in favor of a right-wing position [will fail] - if our seats in the government are filled by Labor…. The vote on the release of prisoners was relatively close; and I believe that when a more extreme proposal to release terrorists with blood on their hands comes up, I believe that our hard work talking to each individual minister will pay off."

Wallerstein: "I believe that we have passed the threshold already.... I believe that the time will come soon when we won’t even have caravans to offer to the new families who come to live here - something that has never happened before! - and then my friend Tzvi Hendel will agree with me that the time has come to quit the coalition."

Hendel: "You said that because we're in the government, it's hard to rile up the public to protest against the government policies. I would say, however, that with all my admiration for my party and the NRP and their MKs, the main reason - I would say 80% - why the right-wing public doesn’t protest is because of Arik Sharon! Because the Likud is in power, the public thinks that whatever it does is okay. Our quitting the government will not bring out the hundreds of thousands that came out to protest in the past, because it will still be a Likud government! …I know that we are being damaged politically by remaining in the government, but my concern is not to collect points, but to stop the establishment of a Palestinian state. And I know that, while I have no chance of doing this from without, I can do it a little bit at a time from within."

Wallerstein: "I accept your analysis of the 80%, but I say that if we want to start a process, then we have to start even with just 20%. With you guys inside, the public is confused, and assumes that you agree with the Road Map and the rest, and no public protest can get started. I know that you don't agree with the Road Map, but the public simply does not know what's going on: are we in favor of a partition, or not? Natural growth or not? Temporary PA state? etc."

Hendel noted that 40 million of the 75 million shekels originally allocated to the Judea, Samaria and Gaza regional councils has already been returned. "I have no doubt," he said, "that the rest will also be restored. Everything is accomplished with difficulty, that's all."