Daily Israel Report

Opposition To Sharon´s Plan Within Likud Threatens Gov´t

Some 650 Likud Central Committee members crowded into a Petach Tikvah hall last night to protest Prime Minister Sharon's declared intention of expelling all Jews from Gaza.
First Publish: 2/12/2004, 2:14 PM / Last Update: 2/12/2004, 3:01 PM

Some 650 Likud Central Committee members crowded into a Petach Tikvah hall last night to protest Prime Minister Sharon's declared intention of expelling all Jews from Gaza. Ministers Natan Sharansky and Uzi Landau, among several Likud government ministers who oppose the plan, addressed the crowd. Presenting a defense of the unilateral withdrawal was Minister Gideon Ezra, who recently said that his job is to support the Prime Minister in whatever position he takes. However, what one eyewitness called "furious catcalls and vociferous booing forced Ezra to leave the stage without finishing his address.

Hisdai Eliezer, the mayor of Alfei Menashe in western Shomron, was among the organizers of the event. He told Arutz-7 today, "Minister Ezra said that he didn't know in advance that the issue last night was to be the disengagement plan - which is a bit hard to believe, since I spoke to him myself beforehand. But he decided anyway to speak - he is a good man; I personally admire him, though we think differently on this issue - but the audience did not allow him to finish."

In addition to the ministers, 11 Likud MKs were in attendance to show their opposition to the plan: Yuli Edelstein, Gilad Erdan, David Levy, Leah Ness, Daniel Ben-Lulu, Naomi Blumental, Moshe Kachlon, Gila Gamliel, Yechiel Chazan, Ayoub Kara and Ehud Yatom. Rounding out those who are known to oppose the plan are Ministers Tzachi HaNegbi, Silvan Shalom, and Yisrael Katz - though they were not in attendance.

"MK David Levy, in his unique way, really drew in the audience," Mayor Eliezer said, "with his strong and emotional speech against the plan - it seemed like a return to his old days..." Levy told Israel Radio today that he believes that Sharon's unilateral Gaza disengagement plan will disappear of its own accord, as it does not have support from the Cabinet, the Knesset, the security establishment, and the Likud Party's Central Committee. "Not even Sharon can advance such a bold plan without the support of his own party," the veteran politician said.

Asked if he knows what Binyamin Netanyahu's position on the plan is, Eliezer said, "Netanyahu is a smart man, and he knows that polls show that his chances of becoming the Likud's next Prime Minister are excellent. His strategy therefore is not to take any chances and not to make any mistakes that could work against him. I therefore hope that this is the reason he is remaining silent on this issue, and not because he supports the withdrawal."

Central Committee members working to thwart the disengagement plan note that their goal is to achieve 14 MKs to oppose it at all costs, for two reasons. One is that one-third of a Knesset faction - in the Likud's case, 14 MKs - is permitted to define itself as a separate faction. The second reason is that if the NRP and National Union leave the government and are replaced by Labor, this would leave the Likud-Labor-Shinui coalition with 74 MKs - and totally dependent on the 14 "rebel" MKs in order to retain a majority.

Mayor Eliezer said that the purpose of the political activity is to "instill a certain basic truth within the Israeli public. In addition to our national and historic rights to this land, we have to make it perfectly clear that, as many army officers have said, this plan is simply dangerous to the State of Israel."