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PM Sharon: We Are Committed to the Road Map

Sounding confident and upbeat, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon addressed the nation Monday night, laying out the main planks of his new party's platform.
By Nissan Ratzlav-Katz
First Publish: 11/22/2005, 10:48 AM / Last Update: 11/22/2005, 10:06 AM

Addressing a nationally televised press conference, Mr. Sharon once again spoke of the need to make "painful concessions" to the Palestinian Authority (PA) in talks surrounding the final status borders. The only plan under consideration to reach that stage, he said, is the US-brokered Road Map to Middle East Peace, which Sharon praised for its reciprocal structure, with each step "contingent upon the successful completion of the previous one."

Sharon said that while he is opposed to further unilateral withdrawals by Israel, in the context of the Road Map, additional Jewish communities would have to be uprooted in Judea and Samaria in the final stages of a negotiated agreement. When asked by reporters about his position regarding the unauthorized "outposts" currently existing in Judea and Samaria, the prime minister said that there are "a specific number of unauthorized outposts in Judea and Samaria" that will be removed. However, he said that he could not give a specific timetable at present.

With the backdrop of the escalation of Hizbullah attacks on the northern border, Sharon declared that Israel will determine its own security needs, and "on this there will be no compromise."

The second priority of his new political framework, stated the prime minister, is addressing poverty. In a moment of preemptive campaigning, Mr. Sharon said that what is needed is action and not words, obliquely referring to charges by left-wing leaders over his government's social welfare policies.

Regarding his break with the Likud, Prime Minister Sharon said, "Remaining in the Likud at present is a waste of time" that "would occupy me with internal political controversy instead of focusing on the needs of the nation." In Sharon's view, the Likud party's present makeup renders it incapable of addressing the national agenda. Therefore, he left the party that he credited himself with founding nearly 30 years ago, even though, he claimed, he would "almost certainly have been victorious in the party primaries" and the national elections. He explained that his desire to push forward his national agenda led him to opt for the more difficult route of launching a new party.

Speaking of his past accomplishments, the prime minister noted that he has been serving the country for 60 years and hopes to continue doing so as long as he is able.

The newly minted National Responsibility (since renamed "Kadima") party, stated Mr. Sharon, is a "liberal centrist party". The new path he is promoting, Sharon said, "will provide Israel with genuine hope for stability, national responsibility, personal security, stable government, economic prosperity, tranquility and peace." In the coming days, he will be meeting with lawmakers to recruit new members to the party. At present, Sharon has 14 MKs and ministers who have committed to join the Kadima party. Among those Likud members attending the first factional meeting were Ministers Tzippi Livni, Ehud Olmert and Gideon Ezra, along with MKs Ruchama Avraham, Eli Aflalo, Roni Bar-On and others.

Mr. Sharon's new party now claims one-third of the Likud party Knesset members, giving it official status as a "breakaway faction". Such a designation allows the new faction to lay claim to a portion of Likud party finances.