Likud MK Says Early Elections Could Thwart Withdrawal

MK Yuli Edelstein, the first member of PM Ariel Sharon’s ruling Likud Party to move to Gush Katif ahead of the planned uprooting of all Jewish towns there, says new elections can stop the plan.

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, | updated: 13:29

MK Edelstein, speaking yesterday on Israel National Radio's Eli Stutz and Yishai Fleisher show, said the government has "ceased functioning" and is being "propped up for the sole purpose of" throwing 9,000 Jews out of their homes in Gaza and northern Samaria.

“I think the Knesset is just not functioning – we are doing things that are damaging to Israeli democracy,” Edelstein said. “Right now, there is an ad hoc coalition for every vote and basically no opposition in the day-to-day functioning of the Knesset. I think these things are definitely not healthy for any country and definitely not for the Israeli parliament."

“On the other hand," said the young MK, who is moving from Gush Etzion to Gush Katif, "we see that time after time there is a sufficient number of Knesset Members who basically say Sharon is not OK, Likud is not OK, we want to throw them out of office – but only after the unilateral disengagement. So it is a kind of draw" - meaning that he still enjoys a safety net of withdrawal supporters.

MK Edelstein does not think that Prime Minister Sharon can maintain this delicate balance as the date of the planned implementation grows closer. “On the one hand," he said, "there are all these difficulties Ariel Sharon has regarding the implementation of the unilateral withdrawal plan. On the other, there are the dynamics we are witnessing in the Knesset that [Knesset Speaker] Reuven Rivlin spoke about this morning. I think that with these two things combined, we can suggest there is a good chance it won’t be possible for the Prime Minister to start the implementation of his plan with such a lack of political support and public support.

“One of the concerns of many of my colleagues in the Knesset [regarding new elections] is, ‘What next?’ Will we get to elections and see, G-d forbid, Ariel Sharon elected again?' I don’t agree with this logic. I think the primary issue during the elections will be the unilateral withdrawal plan – and we see that support for the plan is diving. I just think what we need is some basic political courage to say, ‘This was not what was proposed by the Prime Minister before elections – let the people decide on the future through elections.’"

Edelstein noted that it was "absolutely clear that the plan then-proposed by [Labor Party candidate] Amram Mitzna was voted down by the Israeli voters; now, basically the same plan is being proposed by Ariel Sharon, and it is a very fair demand to bring it to a national referendum or general elections.”

Some object to early elections because of the lack of alternative leaders to Sharon. Edelstein says such thinking is nonsense: “I think it is illogical that in a country like ours the national camp can’t find one leader. There are many good Jews here; some of them just have to realize that they are right to compete for the Prime Minister’s office.”

Edelstein said he supports civil disobedience as a means of opposing the withdrawal plan. While he understands those who choose to either refuse orders or to tell their commanders they are unable to carry out the task, he does not think that refusal should be the rallying cry, because of the danger that other segments of society might adopt the same approach, out of laziness and unwillingness to sacrifice for the country.

With regard to how he is waging the struggle, as a Member of Knesset and the ruling Likud Party, Edelstein said he is continuing the battles within the Knesset: “I think that the game is far from being over in the political stage. In terms of the public process, I think there are wonderful initiatives and in some of them I am participating. On a personal level, my family and I are moving, with G-d’s help, in the next couple of days to Gush Katif, to a settlement called Gadid [adjacent to N'vei Dekalim] – and I sincerely hope it is not a gesture of solidarity, but that we will be able to find our new home [there] for many years to come.”

Click here to listen to the entire interview on Israel National Radio