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LIKUD MELTDOWN OVER GAZA?

Fired Cabinet Minister Landau: ‘Despite Yesterday’s Vote, Sharon’s Opponents To Withdrawal Are Now A Majority In The Likud’

Cabinet Minister Sheetrit: ‘Netanyahu And Other Likud Opponents Chickened Out In the Knesset Vote And Will Do So Again’

M.K. Uzi Landau

Where is the ruling Likud Party of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon now headed? The party split down the middle; some Likud MKs voted for Sharon’s withdrawal while others opposed it. In addition, Sharon’s party rival Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and three other cabinet ministers issued an ultimatum, warning they will resign if the Prime Minister does not agree to a national referendum within 2 weeks. Meir Sheetrit another Likud cabinet minister says the cabinet ‘rebels’ backed down in yesterday’s vote and he believes they will again.

However, Likud Cabinet Minister Uzi Landau and Deputy Minister Michael Ratzon now say that 5 more Likud cabinet ministers also oppose the pullout and Sharon’s opponents are now a majority in the Likud Knesset caucus.

The Knesset vote in favor of the Gaza withdrawal was ‘kosher but it stinks to high heaven!’ That’s the reaction of Likud Cabinet minister Uzi Landau a day after being fired by Sharon for voting against the pullout. David Essing reporting:

Knesset

Uzi Landau says the opponents to withdrawal now form a majority in Likud Knesset caucus and may have ‘lost a battle but not the campaign’. The Prime Minister was the clear winner in yesterday’s historic vote, but Sharon’s opponents are mobilizing for the next battle. At a Knesset news conference, Landau declared that five more Likud cabinet ministers oppose the withdrawal and are ready to torpedo it. He hopes it will be possible to avoid a breakup of the Likud adding there are still a couple of weeks for Sharon to agree to a national referendum. Otherwise the country will be split and will have to go to an early election.

Min Sheetrit

However, another Likud cabinet minister Meir Sheetrit retorts that Netanyahu and three other Likud ministers ‘chickened out’ yesterday. They first issued an ultimatum to Sharon for a referendum and then voted for the withdrawal in the House because they were afraid of being fired. Sheetrit warns that if the opponents keep harassing the Prime Minister they will leave him no choice but to try and enlarge the coalition by bringing in the Labor party.The Minister advises the ‘rebels’ to climb down from their tree before the tree falls down with them. If not, it could trigger an early election and he has no doubt that Ariel Sharon will lead the Likud to victory.

As for Bibi Netanyahu, he has no second thoughts about his ultimatum on a referendum to the Prime Minister…he says it is the only way to preserve the unity of the country and the Likud. When asked if he would accept a referendum in favor of the withdrawal, Netanyahu replied ‘that would depend upon the situation and if there were no Palestinian terrorism’. Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom also opposes the pullout but he did not issue an ultimatum. Shalom explains that the final vote on withdrawal will not be taken until next March and he will again try and persuade Sharon to agree to a referendum. Otherwise, the Foreign Minister thinks an early election will be on the cards; he rules out the possibility of a national unity government with Labor.

David Essing

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