HaNegbi: I Won´t Break Up Likud Over Gaza

Minister Tzachi HaNegbi said today that he objects to the disengagement plan, saying that it involves uprooting communities "for nothing" - but is not willing to dismantle the Likud in fighting it.

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, | updated: 09:55

Minister Tzachi HaNegbi "zhanegbi@knesset.gov.il" said today that he objects to the disengagement plan, but is not willing to dismantle the Likud over it. "This plan is opposed to the ideals of the Likud," he said, "an initiative that involves the uprooting of Jewish communities and thousands of people from their homes - and all this in exchange for, essentially, nothing. I will attempt to fight and counter this - but only within the rules of the game; I don't want to destroy the Likud over it."

HaNegbi, in 1982, was one of the leaders of the opponents of the withdrawal from Sinai. He even led a group of students who barricaded themselves atop a monument to fallen soldiers in the Sinai city of Yamit, flirting with civil disobedience and violence against the withdrawal. Now, however, he says that though he continues to object to abandoning parts of the Land of Israel, he won't take drastic moves - even in the political sphere - to stop the current plan.

Speaking with Army Radio today, HaNegbi admitted that yesterday's Likud Knesset faction meeting was held in an atmosphere of "divisiveness." For the first time, Prime Minister Sharon invited only some MKs: those who voted in favor of his Knesset speech on Monday. HaNegbi said, however, that "the situation in general is one of divisiveness, as his own party MKs did not support him in the Knesset. On the other hand, we can understand them; they wish, for ideological motives, to 'target and liquidate' the disengagement plan."

Sharon said at the meeting yesterday that he would enact sanctions against the Likud "rebels" if they continue to vote against him. These could include preventing them from making proposals in the name of the party faction and the like. One participant at yesterday's meeting even said that he implied that the 25 MKs who were present were the "real Likud." HaNegbi said that Sharon came in to the meeting steaming mad, but "we calmed him down somewhat, explaining the motives of those who did not vote for him and asking him to come towards them in certain ways."

Among those at the meeting were some MKs who are known to oppose, to varying extents, the disengagement. Likud faction whip MK Gideon Saar had some veiled criticism of the Prime Minister when he told the participants that the Likud went to the internal party referendum - in which the disengagement plan was defeated - with the confidence that "all the sides would abide by the results, but that's not what's happening." Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu expressed dissatisfaction with the meeting, telling Sharon that it would be inappropriate to "institutionalize this forum." Sharon countered by saying that other limited forums within the Likud never bothered Netanyahu in the past.

Deputy Minister Michael Ratzon, one of those who abstained in the vote on Monday, said today that he has no wish to unseat the Prime Minister, but will continue to vote against any bill or initiative connected with the disengagement plan. Asked how he would vote if the Likud faction decided that "party discipline" dictates that every Likud MK must vote for the disengagement bill, Ratzon said, "I believe that a popular referendum is the only way to make this decision." Pressed to answer the question, Ratzon said, "I will not vote for the disengagement under any circumstances."