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THIS WEEK 4.9.05

Prime Minister Sharon: 'U.S. Has Always Stood By Israel, Israel Will Do Possible To Help U.S. Cope With Katrina Disaster'

Rescue Effort Underway To Prevent Likud From Committing Political Hara-kiri

IDF Chief Of Staff Warns of 'New Rules' If Palestinians Launch Intifada #3

Sharon | New-Orleans Disaster

Israel has reacted swiftly to the Katrina hurricane disaster in the U.S. Speaking at the weekly cabinet session, Prime Minister Sharon announced that an Israeli team will soon be flying to the U.S. to ascertain how the Jewish state can best help. In domestic politics, a new effort is underway in the Likud to cool off the feud raging between Arik Sharon and former Finance Minister that is threatening to tear the party asunder. In the Palestinian arena, new terror alerts from the West Bank have prompted IDF Chief Of Staff Dan Halutz to sound a sharp warning.

:: IsraCast Audio ::

'The U.S. has stood by Israel in trying times; Israel has a duty to help the U.S. cope with the Katrina hurricane disaster'. Prime minister Sharon opened the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem by promising the Jewish state will do all it can to help in the rescue effort. A team of Israeli health and security officials will be flying to the U.S. this week to co-ordinate Israeli assistance. Sharon again expressed Israel's condolences to the families of victims and to the American people. Health Minister Danny Naveh said although a great power like the U.S. is capable of dealing with such disasters, even small countries such as Israel could assist with specific expertise they have acquired. The IDF's Home Guard and Medical Corps are often among the first rescue teams to arrive at disaster sights around the world and have developed swift and innovative search and treatment techniques.

The Netanyahu-Sharon Slugfest: A major rescue effort is underway to prevent the ruling Likud party from committing political Hara-kiri. Sharon and Netanyahu continued trading salvoes. Netanyahu's battle cry to Likudniks was: 'Let's take back the Likud; Sharon is a left-wing imposter'. Sharon retorts: 'Netanyahu is ready to risk turning the Likud out of office for nothing more than his political ambitions'.

Likud Fireworks: After announcing that Sharon had to go because he carried out the unilateral withdrawal, Likud candidate Bibi Netanyahu hit the ground running. He traveled the next day to Maale Adumim outside of Jerusalem on the West Bank, now a bone of contention between Jerusalem and Washington, not to speak of the Palestinians. There, Netanyahu declared that if elected he would build thousands of housing units in the uninhabited area known as E-1 between Maale Adumim and Jerusalem, some five miles away. Although building plans have been approved for E-1, Netanyahu charged that Sharon has buckled under U.S. pressure and shied away from constructing the 'strategic territorial link' with the capital. The Prime Minister has agreed that only a token Israeli police station be erected in the vacant area. Moreover, Vice-Premier Ehud Olmert has confirmed that Israel has agreed to freeze building in E-1. Netanyahu also declared that when he was prime minister he bucked American pressure and gave the green light to build the Har-Homa neighborhood that is also across the green line frontier of 1967. Netanyahu contended: 'Sharon has set a precedent that may result in the partition of Jerusalem'. And then the former prime minister added: 'Jerusalem is our eternal capital and we must build it. This is what a sovereign government does and no one can tell us to freeze construction in our own capital'. Netanyahu made the brief drive to Maale Adumim by bus and with a group of Knesset members and reporters. He apparently intends using this American style campaign tactic of making whirlwind tours throughout the country to garner support. Although true that Bibi built Har-Homa in the face of U.S. opposition, it must also be said that Netanyahu paid a price; he was more or less ostracized by the Clinton administration by the end of his term.

Prime Minister Sharon has not been idle: He counters by charging that Netanyahu is ready to risk the Likud losing the next election simply to satisfy his personal ambition. Sharon has been meeting Likud cabinet ministers one-on-one in an effort to secure their support. So far, most Likud ministers are staying neutral in the slugfest between Netanyahu and Sharon waiting to see who wins. The crisis has not yet crested and several big guns in the party are trying hard to nip it in the bud before it blows the party apart. Likud ministers Silvan Shalom and Zachi Henegbi have teamed up to try and resolve the party clash that now centers on when to hold the primaries for party leader. The Netanyahu camp views this as: 'When do we give Sharon the old heave-ho!' Their idea is that at the Likud convention on September 26th, a majority of the 3,500 central committee members will vote to hold the primaries around the end of November. If the current polls hold up the 150,000 Likud members would then vote in favor of Bibi as party leader and candidate for PM in the next election due in November 2006. But why would Netanyahu wait for nearly a year? He would act promptly to dump Sharon and go to an early election. For his part, Arik says he will never agree to play second fiddle to Bibi. Does that mean Sharon would retire and fade away to his Negev ranch? Not likely. Arik would likely take to the barricades and launch a new party to rival the Likud. There are rumors that high profile and popular figures such as Dan Meridor, Avi Dichter and Ben-Gurion University President Avishai Braverman might join a Sharon ticket. Polls indicate that Sharon might pick up as many as half of the Likud's current 40 Knesset seats. If so, Likud ministers Silvan Shalom and Zachi Henegbi warn the Likud would not be able to form the next government. A compromise is now being bandied about to split the difference between the two rivals for the party leadership. Trying to buy time, Sharon demands the primaries be held on schedule around May while Netanyahu wants to strike while the disengagement iron is still hot and go for the primaries as soon as possible in late November. The compromise proposal is to hold the primaries in February with both Sharon and Netanyahu pledging to remain in the Likud if they lose. There is little or no chance that Sharon will accept it. The Prime Minister's trump card in the Likud is his veiled threat to bolt the party, if he is ousted.

Uzi Landau: 'The only Likud cabinet minister who resigned, when it counted, in protest over the Gaza disengagement was Uzi Landau, the almost forgotten candidate for party leader amid the Sharon-Netanyahu brouhaha. Landau represents the far right of the Likud that stands squarely behind the 'Land of Israel' ideology. Although he may represent the majority of Likudniks when it comes to holding on to settlements, Landau lacks the charisma to defeat either Netanyahu or Sharon. Widely respected as a man of integrity Landau, who is determined to oust Sharon, is now under pressure to quit the race and throw his weight behind Netanyahu. But Landau has declared he is in to the finish. In any case, Landau and Netanyahu have agreed to pool their resources to topple Sharon.

Dan Halutz

New Rules For Palestinian Violence: At Sunday's cabinet meeting, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz warned of a spike in terror alerts from the West Bank after the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. This is in keeping with the IDF intelligence forecast that the terror organizations would shift their focus of operations from Gaza to Judea and Samaria. In light of this, the security forces have been ordered to step up their counter-terror operations and the building of the security fence is also being accelerated. The barrier to keep out terrorists is now expected to be complete by the end of the year. As for the Gaza Strip settlements, they have all been demolished; the dismantling of IDF installations is now expected to be wrapped up by mid-September. On a tour of the area, IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz spoke of 'new rules' after the withdrawal. If the Palestinians again heat up the area, he favors a more severe Israeli reaction than in the past. The Chief of Staff was quoted as saying: 'our response should not be proportional to the incident; we must not stammer or blink. It's this simple; we left and now there is a sort of Palestinian state in Gaza and the Palestinians must control it. Israel's initial reaction will set the standards of the dialogue and we must not stutter'.

David Essing

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