Daily Israel Report

Likud Faction Wants Referendum

The pressure on the Prime Minister to conduct a referendum reached a climax today when the majority of the Likud Knesset faction spoke out in favor of a plebiscite on the withdrawal/expulsion plan.
First Publish: 10/18/2004, 3:35 PM / Last Update: 10/18/2004, 12:24 PM

The pressure on Prime Minister Sharon to conduct a referendum reached a climax this afternoon when the Likud Knesset faction convened - and the majority spoke out in favor of a plebiscite on the unilateral withdrawal/expulsion plan.

Though Sharon cannot ignore the increasing demands for a referendum within his own party, as he did in the meeting with the Yesha Council leaders yesterday (see below), he succeeded in ensuring that the matter not come for a vote. Faction whip MK Gideon Saar made the decision not to conduct the vote; though he objects to the disengagement plan, he apparently wished to avoid yet another humiliation for the Prime Minister and the party as a whole.

Prime Minister Sharon has said that the purpose of a referendum is merely to delay the implementation of his disengagement plan. He has made it clear that he will tolerate no delays in the timetable he has proposed for the withdrawal.

Among the Likud members who support a referendum are not only the group known as the "rebels" - i.e., those who oppose the withdrawal/expulsion plan - but also several government ministers and other MKs. These include Ministers Netanyahu, Livnat, Shalom, Naveh and Katz, as well as MKs Eitan, Aflalo, Shteinitz and others.

At least one of the Likud "rebels" threatened to vote against the government in today's no-confidence motions in the Knesset. MK Yuli Edelstein told Arutz-7's Knesset correspondent Haggai Seri-Levy that he would consider voting against the government, if Sharon continues to try to force his minority opinion on the majority. Minister Uzi Landau, who unofficially heads the "rebels" camp, repudiated this intention. In the end, however, as mentioned above, the Likud will not take part in the no-confidence votes at all.