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Hendel Accuses Prime Minister

First Publish: 1/5/2004, 2:13 PM / Last Update: 1/5/2004, 3:45 PM

MK Tzvi Hendel (National Union) made some strong accusations against Prime Minister Sharon this morning. After Housing Minister Effie Eitam of the NRP said last night that Sharon is motivated not by American pressures, but by pressures from the Israeli left-wing and media, Hendel went one further:
"I have reached the conclusion that Sharon is trying to act as left-wing as possible, and his main motivation for such - and possibly the only one - is because of the police investigations against him. I don't know if the charges against his family are serious or not, and I don't know if he's guilty or not, but it appears that as it gets closer and closer to a decision, he is becoming more frightened [and is doing what he can to ensure that the left-wing prosecutors close the files]. Otherwise, I have absolutely no other explanation for the determination that he has developed to uproot Jews from their homes in the Land of Israel."

Asked if he doesn't think that the American pressure is a main factor, Hendel said, "The American pressure is something that we brought upon ourselves. I can bring a proof from a different area: We were negotiating with the Finance Ministry people about the budget, trying to restore the income tax benefits for some of the Yesha communities. We showed them that it would only add up to some ten million shekels - a tiny crumb compared to the national budget - but they wouldn't give in. But they saw that we also weren't giving in, and they finally admitted that it wasn't their decision, but that of the Prime Minister, because [Sharon's aide Dov] Weissglass said that he had promised the Americans that he wouldn't give any benefits to the residents of Yesha - as if the Americans would ever find out or care about some income tax benefits to residents of Yesha!"

Despite his anger at Sharon, Hendel said that it was not yet time for his party to leave the government:
"If I knew that I had a better alternative tomorrow morning, I would be the first to go for it. But meanwhile, we are trying to make the best of what there is - for instance, in Migron, the evacuation was about to happen [yet we were able to stop it]... But the moment we feel that our positive influence in the government is less than the influence we could have outside it, we will be out of the government. There are still many worse scenarios that are liable to happen - along the lines of the evacuation of Yamit - and we still feel that with the help of some of the Likud ministers, we can stop them, rather than allow Peres and his friends to come triumphantly into the government and implement these catastrophic plans."