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Finance Minister Netanyahu: 'My Resignation Won't Halt The Gaza Retreat Under Fire'

Settlers: 'Netanyahu's Resignation Will Energize Anti-Withdrawal Movement'

Netanyahu Likely To Lead Drive Inside Likud To Oust Ariel Sharon as Party Leader

Binyamin Netanyahu

Finance Minister Bibi Netanyahu has startled the Israeli government and the entire nation with his surprise resignation. At a snap conference, Netanyahu charged that Prime Minister Sharon's disengagement plan would harm Israel's security and he could not be party to it. The settlers have welcomed Netanyahu's surprise move saying it will bolster their drive to halt what they call a retreat.

:: IsraCast Audio ::

'Finance Minister Netanyahu's resignation will serve as a tail-wind for halting Sharon's Gaza Strip withdrawal.' That's the reaction of Israeli settlers to the surprise move by the Prime Minister's chief rival inside the ruling Likud party. Netanyahu, who has opposed the evacuation, handed in his resignation at a cabinet meeting that later gave final approval for starting the pullout on August 17th. The vote was seventeen in favor with five against for first evacuating Netzarim, Kfar Darom and Morag. Netanyahu charged the disengagement would harm Israel's security because Hamas would take control of Gaza and establish an Islamic terror base against Israel. He could not be a party to such a move adding that in London, Madrid, New York and Washington they were realizing: 'If you flee from terrorism, it is bound to follow you'. Four other Likud ministers voted against the pullout: Yisrael Katz, Danny Naveh, Limor Livnat and Zachi Hanegbi.

  • Question: Can Netanyahu's resignation halt the evacuation? Not likely, in the Knesset opponents will need to muster a sixty-one seat majority in the 120 member parliament to pass a vote of no confidence. Prime Minister Sharon can count on at least half of the forty Likud members, Labor, Shinui, Meretz and some Arab Mks for well over sixty-one. Another route could be through the Likud Central Committee where there is likely to be a majority against the withdrawal that is opposed by the vast majority of right wingers. The idea would be to oust Sharon as party leader, topple the government and then go to an early election under the leadership of Netanyahu.
  • Question: Will other Likud cabinet ministers follow in Netanyahu's footsteps and bolt the cabinet? They could, Katz, Naveh, Hanegbi and Livnat are also firmly opposed and it's conceivable they will team up with the former Finance Minister. They may feel the heat of the Likud party swinging behind Netanyahu and side with him against Sharon. It appears inevitable that a major power struggle will soon erupt between Netanyahu and Sharon in the Likud party. At least thirteen or so Likud Knesset 'rebels' will undoubtedly really behind Netanyahu.
  • Question: Why has Netanyahu waited until the very last moment, just days from the Gaza evacuation? Netanyahu says he wanted to push through his vital economic reforms while also trying to block the withdrawal from inside the cabinet. But now that the final approval was given by what he called 'the automatic majority' he must obey his conscience and quit his post. Behind the scenes, influential right wingers have warned Netanyahu that he will never become prime minister of Israel again if he remains in the disengagement cabinet. His resignation triggered a massive 5 % drop on Israel's stock market.
David Essing

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