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EARLY ELECTION MOVES IN ISRAEL

Former Likud Minister Meridor: 'An Early Election Will Follow The Disengagement This Fall'

Likud MK Landau: 'It's Still Possible To Halt Disengagement If Netanyahu Will Quit Government And Lead Campaign Against Sharon'

IsraCast Prediction: Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin Will Resign Rather Than Preside Over Parliament During Withdrawal

Dan Meridor | Eli Landau

An early election atmosphere is building in Israel. First, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin charged that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon cannot lose no-confidence votes in Parliament and continue to carry out the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and four West Bank settlements this fall. Several Likud MKs have also called for an election before the disengagement is implemented. Former Likud cabinet minister Dan Meridor believes an early election will take place after the disengagement. Meanwhile, Likud rebel MK Uzi Landau calls on Finance Minister Bibi Netanyahu and other Likud cabinet ministers to quit the government in order to block the pullout.

The countdown may have started for an early election in Israel - the scenario is that after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon implements his withdrawal plan this fall his coalition government may collapse. Sharon, at loggerheads with his own Likud part over the disengagement now depends on Labor. However, Labor backs Sharon solely on the withdrawal and will demand that the Prime Minister move full tilt into negotiations with the Palestinians on the Roadmap. Sharon says ‘No way!’ He demands the Palestinians must first disarm the terror organizations, the first clause in the Roadmap. The result could be fireworks; the government could fall with Israelis going to an early election before November 2006. Former Likud Justice Minister Dan Meridor doubts that Sharon will be able to form a new right wing government. Meridor told IBA TV news, that after the disengagement ‘right wingers will not be willing to coalesce around Sharon’. But that remains to be seen because the Prime Minister may adopt a much tougher stand on future pullbacks and negotiations with the Palestinians in light of the continuing terror attacks despite the ‘Tahdia’ ceasefire.In the Labor primaries, Amir Peretz who is running second after Shimon Peres, has declared that he would pull Labor out of the coalition right after the disengagement.

But if Meridor believes the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and 4 West Bank settlements will be carried out, the Likud rebels have not given up hope. Likud MK Uzi Landau says day be day it is becoming more apparent that the Palestinians will launch a new war of terrorism after the withdrawal. Likud quotes former IDF Chief Moshe Yaalon who has said the Palestinians are not serious about negotiating peace and recognizing Israel as a Jewish state. Landau contends that the withdrawal can still be stopped if Likud cabinet ministers, such as Finance Minister Bibi Netanyahu quit the government. Landau says ‘it’s time for them to think of their national responsibility and not their personal positions and careers’. However, there is still no sign this is about to happen, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin is another matter. Rivlin, a strong opponent to the disengagement, has again called for an early election charging that Sharon has lost his public mandate. It will be interesting to see when the withdrawal begins whether Rivlin will agree to preside over a Knesset that approved giving up parts of the Land of Israel?

David Essing

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