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KNESSET SAYS YES TO GAZA WITHDRAWAL

Knesset Votes 67-45 For Sharon’s Evacuation Plan

Finance Minister Netanyahu: ‘I and 3 Other Likud Ministers Will Quit Cabinet, If Sharon Does Not Agree To National Referendum Within Fourteen Days’

Analyst David Essing: ‘Netanyahu Blinked First In Confrontation With Prime Minister; Senior Sources Say Sharon Will Not Budge On Referendum’

Knesset Vote

Israel’s Parliament, the Knesset, has voted in favor of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s disengagement plan to evacuate the Gaza Strip and 4 northern Samaria settlements by the end of next year. However, there was high drama hours before the vote when Binyamin Netanyahu, Sharon’s main rival in the Likud party, served an ultimatum to the Prime Minister; Netanyahu and three other ministers Livnat, Katz and Naveh threatened to resign unless Sharon agreed to hold a national referendum on the evacuation within 14 days. But then in the Knesset vote, the four rebel ministers caused an up-roar when they voted for Sharon’s proposal. Analyst David Essing says Netanyahu has blinked first in what is now an open confrontation with Sharon.

:: IsraCast Audio ::

The clash between Ariel Sharon and Binyamin Netanyahu has now broken wide open in the ruling Likud party. This as the Knesset passed Sharon’s withdrawal plan by a solid majority.

Bibi Netanyahu

As expected the left wing opposition parties, Labor and Yachad voted for the pullout handing Sharon a major victory in spite of fierce opposition from within his own Likud party. However, Finance Minister Bibi Netanyahu led a last minute revolt against Sharon inside the Likud. Netanyahu opposes the withdrawal and he has been pressing for a national referendum to decide the issue. Sharon sees it as a means to torpedo his plan and has categorically rejected it. Just hours before the crucial vote, Netanyahu announced that he and three other Likud ministers had made a deal with NRP minister Zvulun Orlev on a referendum which would keep the NRP in the coalition. Netanyahu informed Sharon he and the other three ministers Livnat, Katz and Naveh would quit the cabinet unless the Prime Minister agrees to hold the referendum. Sharon did not budge, nor say his aides, will he. The dramatic vote began in the House. Netanyahu and his three colleagues were absent for the first round of voting. Cabinet ministers who do not vote for a government proposal can be fired by the Prime Minister. Then, in the final second round, Netanyahu and the other three ministers suddenly appeared and voted in favor of Sharon’s plan. They were heckled by opposition Labor members for caving in at the last minute.

Netanyahu is also being hauled over the coals by angry Likud back-benchers who opposed the withdrawal and believed Netanyahu would lead the campaign against it. MK Gila Gamliel charged: ‘Netanyahu doesn’t know how to lead!’. Yechiel Hazan, another Likud MK declared: ‘When the chips are down, Netanyahu is a weak leader; he behaved like a yo-yo going up and down. It’s better we stick with Sharon, at least he sticks behind his decisions’

Another Likud MK Gilad Ardun said he could not understand how Netanyahu and the other 3 ministers could vote for the withdrawal if they think it’s bad for Israel.

Demonstration

As for the Knesset vote for withdrawal it shows that most of the country supports it. The big question is how it will affect the ruling Likud party? There is no question that Netanyahu has lost face in his match up with Sharon and this might lessen opposition inside the party to the withdrawal itself. But with the threat of Netanyahu and the other ministers still hanging fire, the ruling Likud party still faces the possibility of a split over Sharon’s evacuation plan.

David Essing

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