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SHARON IN TROUBLE

PM Sharon: ‘Only Parties Which Support Disengagement Can Join Government Coalition’

Opposition Leader Peres: ‘Best Solution To Government Crisis Is Not An Early Election, But A New Pro-Disengagement Coalition’

New Labor Hopeful Peretz: ‘Take Ireland For Example’

Sharon in Likud

The government crisis has deepened over Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s moves to pass the new state budget. After two far right parties bolted the coalition in protest over Sharon’s ‘Gaza+4’ withdrawal plan in Knesset, Sharon has made a budget payoff to the ultra-orthodox United Torah Judaism Party and possibly the NRP for their support in passing the budget this Wednesday. However, in response, the coalition party Shinui warns it will now vote against the budget; if it does Sharon will fire Shinui from the coalition. The government crisis worsens day by day.

:: IsraCast Audio ::

Prime Minister Sharon may pull a rabbit out of the hat, but no one is counting on it. Stymied at every turn, Sharon may have run out of options in his drive to carry out the withdrawal from Gaza and four West Bank settlements.

Sharon, facing opposition from within his own Likud party, was fighting an uphill battle to implement his withdrawal plan. The P.M. had wanted to bring the opposition Labor Party into the coalition but the Likud central committee says N0! Labor and another left-wing party Yachad are ready to support Sharon’s withdrawal from the opposition. However, a new study shows that in 2003, more Israelis than ever are living in poverty; one child in five was said to go to bed hungry every night. The shocking report came just says before the new state budget comes to a vote in the Knesset.So, now there are two crucial issues at stake. Labor, peeved at not being able to join the coalition says there is no way it can support an ‘outrageous’ government budget which does nothing to help the poor. In fact, for the first time, Peres tabled a no-confidence motion in the government. But on the other hand, Labor will vote for Sharon’s withdrawal plan.In order to muster enough votes to pass the budget, Sharon is making political payoffs to the religious parties. This will apparently cost him another coalition partner, the secular, Shinui. Shinui leader Tommy Lapid says his party has decided to vote against the budget on Wednesday; in response, Sharon warns he will fire Shinui from the government. Shinui backs Sharon’s withdrawal and the Prime Minister has warned Shinui it is jeopardizing the disengagement plan. Lapid retorts that Sharon will be to blame because he cannot control his Likud party. And so it goes.

Peres in Labor

Shimon Peres says all Laborites do not wish to see the Sharon government fall before it implements the withdrawal. He contends the best solution is not an early election but a new pro-disengagement coalition comprised of the Likud, Labor, Shinui and United Torah Judaism.The turmoil continues. A Sharon source says: 'The Prime Minister’s Doom’s Day Weapon is an early election and if he chooses this option it will obviously be when he thinks it will be to his advantage’. Waiting in the wings to take on Sharon in the Likud primaries will be Finance Minister Bibi Netanyahu.

M.K. Peretz

Over in Labor, a new candidate is laying the groundwork. He is MK Amir Peretz, the popular head of the powerful Histadrut Labor Federation. Peretz has formed his own movement inside the Labor Party after running separately in the last election. Peretz believes that not only the withdrawal but also socio-economic issues will dominate the next general election. Although he lacks the security background, which has been a job requirement for the Israeli premiership, Peretz believes there is now a solid Israeli consensus for territorial compromise and a Palestinian state. What is not clear is where Israeli society is headed and how to close the widening gap between the haves, and the have-nots. Peretz has just returned from Ireland where he studied how government, employers and workers have co operated in triggering a remarkable economic growth for the Irish. This will apparently be the Histadrut leader’s example when he throws his hat into the ring for the labor party leadership. Peretz says he will definitely be in the race if Ehud Barak is.

David Essing

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