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Netanyahu: Sharon Will Start a New Party

Former Prime Minister Netanyahu, Ariel Sharon's main adversary in the Likud, says Sharon knows the Likud won't let him carry out further withdrawals, and will therefore quit and form his own party.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 11/20/2005, 4:15 PM / Last Update: 11/20/2005, 10:12 AM

With the entire country awaiting Sharon's word on this fateful decision - whether to run with the Likud, or to start a competing party - Netanyahu says he already knows what will be. He may be simply trying to manipulate Sharon's decision, however.

Speaking with veteran journalist Yosef Evron, Netanyahu said, "Sharon knows that the Likud as a party will never accept his dictates for additional withdrawals, in the framework of the Roadmap or in a unilateral and arbitrary manner, as happened in Gush Katif. Every territorial compromise in the future will be contingent upon a referendum. Therefore, he has been left with no choice but to [try to] carry out his policies via a different party."

Prime Minister Sharon has dropped hints over the past few weeks that he may quit the Likud and start his own party. The matter has become more acute in the last ten days, however, since the surprise victory of Amir Peretz over Shimon Peres in the race for Labor Party chairman. Aides say Sharon's final decision will be announced on Tuesday, intimating that though it is still too close to call, he is leaning towards quitting the Likud.

Netanyahu told Evron that the Likud "has always been a nationalist centrist party, with willingness to enter into diplomatic agreements at any time, to the extent that a responsible partner is found... Unfortunately, the Palestinians have so far not proven themselves as worthy and true partners for serious negotiations. Sharon's policy of giving away land with nothing in return has been understood as weakness and a reward for terrorism. I opposed this. I am totally resolute not to allow the construction of a seaport in Gaza, which would serve as a free and safe passage for large amounts of heavy weapons for the Palestinian terror gangs - not only in Gaza, but also in Judea and Samaria, and would also bring the Kassams closer to central Israel. The Likud must wake up and return to itself, and the sooner the better for the nation and the country."

Though Evron does not hide his sympathy for Netanyahu, he pulled a fast one on him in the course of the interview. Evron reminds the readers that a year ago, Netanyahu said, "One of the most important lessons I learned when I was Prime Minister is that you must dedicate much more time to inter-personal communications... This is important."

Evron then writes, "I pulled a letter out of my briefcase that was sent to him personally while he was Finance Minister [from February 2003 until August 2005] and which never received an answer. 'Were you ever aware of this letter?' I asked. He browsed through it slowly, and shook his head negatively. 'I know,' he whispered sadly, 'that not everything was done well regarding interpersonal communications during my term as Finance Minister, and there are many who criticize me for it, including close friends... But,' he added, almost in a whisper, 'I was totally engrossed at that time in saving the economy of the State of Israel, which was on the verge of collapse. All my time and efforts I dedicated to the shift from the culture of allocations, which perpetuated poverty, to the work circle."

Netanyahu finally resigned from the Cabinet just ten days before the implementation of the expulsion from Gush Katif and northern Shomron. He explained at the time that he had not quit earlier because he did not want to jeopardize his plan for the economy. "Only a few people know," Evron wrote, "how much he was torn between two opposing urges: to quit the government immediately, and to complete his economic reforms."

"Towards the end of my term," Netanyahu told Evron, "Israel's growth was the highest in the western world, and the inflation was the lowest."

The former Prime Minister favors the partition fence: "We must complete, without delay, the construction of the fence in Judea and Samaria, and the route must include the large settlement blocs: the expanded Ariel bloc, Gush Etzion, Maaleh Adumim, and Route 443 from Tel Aviv to united Jerusalem."

Left out of Netanyahu's plan are Yesha communities such as Kiryat Arba, Hevron, Beit El, Shilo, Psagot, Ofrah, Kokhav HaShachar, Tapuach, Elon Moreh, Yitzhar, Talmon, Dolev, Nachliel, N'vei Tzuf, Mevo Dotan, and many more.

Despite the above, Netanyahu says he has not given up on retaining land behind the fence: "Our goal must be to preserve, in the agreements, most of the territory. I'm not talking about annexing Palestinian populations. But large areas - 2/3, if not 3/4 - of Judea and Samaria are still empty of both Jews and Arabs, but are full of historic, strategic and security importance for us. Most of southern Mt. Hevron, and the Jordan Valley except for some villages, and the slopes of the Shomron mountain ridge, are all empty."

Netanyahu added that Israel's agreement to the establishment of a Palestinian state "is a fateful mistake that must be corrected without delay." He said that the expulsion was "a traumatic and unnecessary move. Any evacuation of communities must be raised as an issue only in the framework of final-status talks, with a Palestinian partner that has repressed terrorism, and with Israeli demands on the Palestinians. The unilateral withdrawal has just strengthened the terrorists' motivation. Even now they are saying that terrorism got us out of Lebanon and Gaza, and that it will get us out of Judea and Samaria, and in the end, out of the entire country."

Netanyahu said that the Likud must make major changes in "Israeli society and state institutions, in areas that were neglected up to now - media, law, etc. The time has come already to change the balance of power in the control centers, which have not changed [in decades] since the days of Mapai rule, and give better representation to the entire public."