FM Shalom: 'Referendum or Civil War'

Foreign Minister Sylvin Shalom said he has unsuccessfully tried to convince Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to back a referendum on his so-called disengagement plan. Otherwise, he fears civil war.<BR><br/>

, | updated: 20:33

"If G-d forbid Israeli soldiers can suddenly decide that they have to shoot at settlers [or] G-d forbid one baby is run over or one soldier or settler is injured, this in my opinion would be a mortal blow to the government of Israel," the foreign minister said in a weekend interview with a Hebrew newspaper.

Shalom said that he loses sleep at night over the possibility of a conflict during the proposed eviction of 8,000 Jews from their homes in 25 communities in Gaza and northern Samaria.

A referendum is a way to prevent civil war, he said. "A referendum is possible to be held in a very short time. I have no personal agenda on the issue. I have no agenda to replace the prime minister [Sharon] and no agenda to prevent disengagement. I have one agenda [which is] to prevent a division that I see being created. We are talking about brothers. But obviously it is impossible to hold a referendum without the agreement of the prime minister."

Shalom, quoted in the Hebrew Yediot Aharonot newspaper, added that "any result of a referendum must be accepted."

In contrast to Disengagement Authority head Yonatan Bassi's approach that the residents slated for eviction "will go quietly," Shalom acknowledged that they are ideological and not prepared to pick up their belongings and leave.

"Whoever thinks that these people just want money is mistaken. Or they [the residents] think nothing will happen or they simply don't want this [disengagement] and therefore money is not what will move them. If in the end they leave, they must be given logical compensation," Shalom argued. He also said the compensation offered to Gush Katif farmers is far too low.

The foreign minister flatly rejected the idea of refusing to obey army orders.

Shalom also said he considers Israel won an achievement last year when President Bush agreed to continued Israeli control over heavily populated Jewish areas in Judea and Samaria. He was referring to Maale Adumim, a city of about 30,000 people between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, the city of Ariel in Samaria and Gush Etzion, which includes several communities such as Efrat south of Jerusalem.

Shalom revealed in the interview that he and his wife light candles and make Kiddush every Friday night and that he eats kosher food both at home and when traveling.

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