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Israel Follows Up Gaza Pullout By Evacuating Four Settlements In Northern Samaria

Latest Poll Indicates Sharon Again Leads Netanyahu in Ruling Likud Party

Shinui Leader Lapid: 'The Ruling Likud Party Is Totally Split Between Sharon & Netanyahu-The Only Solution Is Early Election'

Evacuating Settlers in Sa-Nur

The IDF and Israel Police continued the disengagement by evacuating four West Bank settlements in northern Samaria. There was some resistance by protesters. A senior defense ministry official Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad expects that Israel will hand over control of the Gaza Strip earlier than expected to the Palestinian Authority.In party politics, Channel 10 TV released a poll of Likud central committee members indicating that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has again taken the lead over former Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The question was: 'If the primary for Likud leader was held today who would you vote for?'Sharon - 35.5% | Netanyahu - 28.3%A poll taken just before the Gaza withdrawal showed Netanyahu leading Sharon and is thought to have triggered Netanyahu's snap resignation from the cabinet.

:: IsraCast Audio ::

‘Bibi’s timing was atrocious!’ That is apparently the reaction of Likudniks to former Finance Minister Netanyahu’s quitting the Sharon government at the very last moment before the Gaza withdrawal. Netanyahu is apparently paying the price for not resigning early on and leading the anti-disengagement plan. Moreover, Netanyahu is being perceived as an opportunist. He has left himself open to charges of opportunism and that he tried to advance his personal career by quitting only when a poll indicated he was leading Sharon in the Likud. If Sharon’s chief rival had tried to boost his political image by quitting at the last moment, it has backfired.

And if Netanyahu has lost ground within the right wing Likud that opposed the Sharon’s disengagement, what does it portend for the public at large? The center and left-wing have sided with Sharon, so it follows that the Prime Minister will pull further ahead in the next polls of all voters. However, Israel is passing through one of its most tumultuous times in its history and it is impossible to foretell where it will end.In the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Sharon promised to hold Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) to his Roadmap commitment to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure. In addition, Israel would erect the security fence around Israel settlement blocs that would remain part of Israel in any final agreement. Sharon went on to say that new housing projects will link the settlement blocs to Israel. Sharon’s rhetoric has taken a turn to the right, whether he will follow through in the near future is another question.Early Election: An early poll is looming larger than ever as the disengagement draws to a close with the evacuation of the four settlements in northern Samaria. The Opposition parties Meretz and Shinui that guaranteed Sharon a majority vote in the Knesset, have announced they are folding up their safety net. Shinui leader Tommy Lapid told IsraCast that the Sharon-Netanyahu Fued may split the ruling Likud party and an early election is the only way to go.

David Essing

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