Does the removal of the precondition of seven days of ?quiet? prior to negotiations with the Palestinian Authority justify the resignation of the rightist ministers from the government?

It depends. Our forces have taken the offensive. We no longer simply retaliate after attacks by the other side, rather we attack on our own initiative, constantly. In this situation, ?seven days of quiet? limit us, as well. Any demand for ?days of quiet? made sense so long as the other side was the only one attacking and we were requesting a halt to those attacks for seven days. When it is we who are attacking, from whom are we demanding ?seven days of quiet?? From ourselves? The logic of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon?s decision will be correct only as long as the IDF offensive continues. However, there is great suspicion that American pressure, now known as ?the Zinni visit?, will once again paralyze the IDF. In that case, the concession in the matter of the ?seven days? should not have been made. We will wait and see.

Is the release of PLO leader Yasser Arafat from house arrest in Ramallah a sufficient cause for quitting the government?

It depends. On the face of it, Sharon is correct. If we conditioned Arafat?s release on the arrest of the murderers of Rehavam Ze?evi, obm, and Arafat fulfilled the condition, a state and a statesman of respect must stand by their word. However, Arafat must remain in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Sharon never agreed to allow him to travel to Beirut for the Arab League summit, where he is set to play the starring role in a production of hate and hostility towards Israel and cook up a plan, currently called ?the Saudi Initiative?, for the destruction of Israel by stages.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell has already asked of Prime Minister Sharon, through the media ? lately he hands down all of his orders through the media ? to allow Arafat to attend that summit in Beirut. It is a test of Sharon. If he gives in to the American pressure and allows the master terrorist to leave (and to return), then the resignation of the National Union faction is justified. We will wait and see.

The resignation also comes in the wake of Prime Minister Sharon?s agreement to Powell?s demand to bring in American observers, whose numbers will continue to increase. Thus, Arafat?s demand for international oversight has been accepted, meaning the dissolution of Israeli sovereignty in favor of the creation of Arab sovereignty in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. There was no discussion of this matter in the government and it made no decision at all regarding such a central point. For that reason alone, the ministers? resignation is justified.

Our sages said that everyone knows why a bride is under the chuppah (wedding canopy), but it is not to be discussed. Similarly, everyone knows what the Mitchell Plan is for. According to Mitchell all building in the settlements will be outlawed. Even the addition of a balcony in Kiryat Arba will be forbidden. Why? Because, according to Mitchell, Arab terrorism and Jewish settlement are equivalent. Therefore, the halting of terrorism is counterbalanced with the halting of settlements. What follows is self-evident ? blood flow to a limb is cut off only when it is intended for amputation. The government never decided to adopt the Mitchell plan (Mitchell himself is, incidentally, of Arab Lebanese descent). Sharon ? so he proclaims ? has already adopted the Mitchell plan. That is reason for resignation.

In truth, the National Union faction should have quit the government after Prime Minister?s Latrun speech. It was the speech in which he accepted upon himself the establishment of a Palestinian state. At the latest, the faction should have quit when it became known that Foreign Minister Shimon Peres was conducting negotiations under fire with Abu Ala and that a draft agreement had already been prepared. The inveterate saboteur was to also have met with Saeb Erekat, the man who is the symbol of diplomatic negotiations.

It is constantly asked, ?why does Sharon zigzag so?? The answer is that he lines up according to orders from America and America has changed its tune ? to our disadvantage. This week, we already heard Condoleeza Rice warmly adopt the ?Saudi Initiative?, which is even worse than the Clinton Plan. The Latrun speech by Sharon, that catastrophic event, wherein for the first time an Israeli prime minister from the right agreed to the establishment of a foreign sovereign on the Land of Israel, was an American directive. Two days after that speech, US President Bush, relying on Sharon, came out with his statement regarding the ?vision of the Palestinian state.? It was no coincidence, it was coordinated ahead of time.

Thus, the signal sent by the National Union faction in its resignation and the signal sent by the mass of demonstrators earlier this week was for the Americans. If they are yanking the leash of our Prime Minister, we will turn to them and say: ?If you press to hard on a pencil, the tip breaks. Before you succeed in making our government a blind instrument in your hands, against our national interests, we will knock that instrument from your hands. That is, we will bring down the government. Because of you the Shamir government fell, Peres lost in the elections, Netanyahu fell, and what have you achieved? The entire country is aflame. You want to appease the Arabs, at our cost, in order to attain quiet for your attack on Iraq. Will it be helpful to you that, precisely then, Israel be in the midst of an election campaign, with all sides competing for the majority right-wing vote? Arafat?s strength is his weakness. You are impressed by his threats that if he falls, anarchy follows. Our strength is our weakness, as well. We will prove to you that our government does not have the strength to concede the Land of Israel. It is too weak to withstand your destructive pressures and it will fall.?

If weakness is the weapon of the weak, we can also be weak. The touchstone of the Sharon government was the National Union faction. As long as they were on board, Natan Sharansky did not dare move from his spot, all the more so the Likud ministers who remain faithful to the Land of Israel ? and there are such people. If Sharon is still interested in preventing an avalanche of capitulation and concessions, the resignations of ministers Avigdor Lieberman and Benny Elon actually increase his power to do so. He can tell the Americans, ?Your pressure is causing my downfall. The result is a transition government without any ability to act and an election campaign, at the end of which someone else, who you don?t like, may be elected.? Witness the paradox, the resignation of the ministers Lieberman and Elon, along with the demonstration this week, give Sharon mechanisms and maneuvering room, which he lacked previously, for his Thursday meeting with US envoy Anthony Zinni.

Therefore, we need not alarmed by the fall of the government. We must say to Prime Minister Sharon, ?If the Land of Israel is to be sold out, you will not do it, the nationalist camp will not do it. Leave that to Peres.? We can recruit tremendous support to oppose him. It is only when the leader of the nationalist camp also betrays the Land of Israel that we start having to play political chess.

So, before any prime minister gives in to American pressure, it would be best were he to cease being prime minister.


Elyakim Haetzni, attorney, columnist and former member of the Knesset, has a weekly radio spot on Arutz Sheva.