PM Sharon Sharply Criticized for "Civil War" Threats

Knesset Members from both left and right said that PM Sharon's remarks on NBC television about a "civil war" atmosphere and his need for protection from Jews are incendiary and provocative.<BR><br/>

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, | updated: 11:58

Sharon's interview with NBC's David Gregory was taped in Israel shortly before Sharon left for the U.S. on Sunday, and was broadcast just before the Bush-Sharon meeting in Texas yesterday.

The interview promoted the perception that "Jewish settlers" are the main threat to stability in the Middle East. "Israelis are bracing for a violent summer," the narrator opened, "but it's not the Palestinians they are worried about — it’s the Jewish settlers."

Asked if he expects violence during the withdrawal from Gaza, Sharon said, "I expect [it] before and during... One should not underestimate the tension here, the atmosphere here. It looks like on the eve of a civil war... All my life I was defending [the lives] of Jews. Now, for [the] first time, security steps are taken to protect me from Jews."

MK Tzvi Hendel (National Union), a resident of Gush Katif and one of Sharon's most bitter opponents, said, "Sharon is a liar. He knows that the only one who can lead to a civil war is he himself."

Hendel's party colleague MK Uri Ariel (pictured above) also blamed the Prime Minister for the atmosphere he himself created: "Sharon is like someone who pushed his mother down the steps, was put on trial for murder, and then asked for mercy because he's an orphan."

Even on the left, there were some who had no use for Sharon's remarks. Extreme left-wing MK Zahava Gal'on (Meretz/Yahad) accused Sharon of "making cheap and provocative use of threats of civil war."

Former Justice Minister Tommy Lapid of the left-wing Shinui Party said, "Remarks like these by the Prime Minister cause more extremism and tension, instead of calming things down. I don't think that such dangers exist."

The Yesha Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza issued a statement proposing once again that Sharon "prevent the civil war of which he is warning, and bring the disengagement issue to a public referendum. Sharon is tearing the nation apart and causing a split in the nation - and then he runs to impress the Americans with stories of a civil war."

Yesha Council leaders, rabbis, Knesset Members and countless other right-wing public figures have warned their students and those who follow them that the struggle against the disengagement must not involve violence. Many of them have agreed that neither the residents to be uprooted, nor the policemen and soldiers who come to uproot them, should be armed at the time.