Daily Israel Report

The Political Ramifications of Sharon´s Defeat

Sharon has sent Mofaz to meet with Shas leader Rabbi Yosef, and will make contacts with United Torah Judaism - and possibly even Labor.
First Publish: 10/12/2004, 4:05 PM / Last Update: 10/12/2004, 4:56 PM

As part of the efforts to convince the coalition MKs to vote for Sharon's statement, the Likud MKs were told that the Prime Minister would be forced to bring Labor into a national unity coalition government if he loses the vote, thus downgrading their own position in the government. Following the failure of this attempt, Sharon suffered yet another defeat in the Knesset last night in his plan to retreat from Gaza. This follows his loss in the Likud Party referendum and several defeats in the Likud Central Committee.

However, the main vote - the first reading on the actual Disengagement Law - is still ahead, scheduled for Oct. 25, and Sharon's chances in that one are better than in the others. Labor has announced that it will vote in favor of the bill. The question is, then, whether the government can last until then, and if so, whether it can last until after the budget vote and/or the final readings of the disengagement bill.

To ensure that he does not fall, analysts assume that Sharon will try to widen his government. Defense Minister Sha'ul Mofaz met with Shas Party spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef today in an attempt to convince him that the disengagement is in keeping with Shas positions. Rabbi Yosef has expressed strong opposition to the plan. Shas is also against the government's budget proposals, thus that it does not appear that Shas is a likely candidate to join the government - and certainly not if Shinui remains a member.

Arutz-7's Knesset correspondent Haggai Seri-Levy reports that Rabbi Yosef's objections to the withdrawal remain as before, according to a source in the Shas Knesset faction. The source said, however, that the rabbi will continue to hear the opinions of security experts in order to formulate his final opinion.

United Torah Judaism, for its part, has not yet closed all doors to the Likud, and in fact a rough draft of an agreement already exists between the two parties. UTJ need not join the coalition in order to support it from without.

The leading opposition party, Labor, is still ready to join the government - at least according to party leader Shimon Peres, Chaim Ramon, and others. Other leading party MKs are equally against such a move.

MK Effie Eitam, chairman of the NRP, said after the vote, "The Knesset has placed a stop sign in the way of Sharon's destructive plan to uproot communities, and to a major political-security downfall. I believe that the final nail in the coffin of this government will be hammered in by the NRP faction in the coming days when it completely quits the coalition."

MK Yitzchak Levy told Arutz-7 today that if the NRP does not quit the coalition either before or immediately after the Prime Minister presents the Disengagement Bill to the Knesset for its first reading, he would quit the party. Levy, who headed the NRP from 1998 until 2002, said that if the party remains in the government, "I will find myself a new political framework."

Political commentator Yaakov Eichler of the HaMachaneh HaHareidi publication says that yesterday's vote is reminiscent of the way in which former Prime Ministers Netanyahu and Barak were toppled from power. "First they lost insignificant votes, until it began to snowball, and they finally called new elections," Eichler said.