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SHARON vs SETTLERS

PM Sharon: ‘No Referendum On Withdrawal; Stop Inciting IDF Soldiers To Disobey Orders!’

Settler Leaders: ‘Sharon Won’t Listen, We’ll Try And Persuade Likud MKs To Vote Against Evacuation!’

Demonstration

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon faced off with settler leaders and neither side gave way. Sharon declared he will go ahead with the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and 4 settlements in Samaria by the end of next year. The settlers declare they’ll block the evacuation by political means while also warning of the danger of civil strife.

Ariel Sharon and the settler leaders clashed head on …when it was over neither side gave an inch. The Prime Minister declared he is going ahead with the pullout and that’s it; the angry settlers warned they will fight him all the way.

It was the first time they had met for over a year but it was not much of a dialogue. Sharon invited the settler leaders to his Jerusalem office and literally read them the’ riot act’. He would not give in to pressure, the withdrawal would be carried out and there would be no national referendum to decide the issue. Sharon charged the referendum was just a means for stalling and he would have no part of it, end of story. Nor would an early election solve the issue, the results would be the same. And the Prime Minister went on to say that it was his responsibility alone to decide on the disengagement and only he knew of the political dangers facing Israel if it were not carried out. As Sharon put it: “It is the best way to try and preserve as much of the Land of Israel as possible”. The Prime Minister had some harsh words after rabbis in the territories had instructed IDF soldiers to disobey any orders to dismantle settlements. Sharon called it a very grave development.

Shaul Goldstein

The settler leaders left the meeting annoyed and disheartened. Shaul Goldstein, the mayor of the Gush Etzion Council, charged that Sharon did not really want to listen to them or hear their arguments against the withdrawal and for a national referendum. If the settlers had any hope of dissuading Sharon from implementing the evacuation, that has now gone by the board. Goldstein says the settlers will now try and persuade more Likud Knesset members to vote against the withdrawal on October 25th. In the Likud caucus, 17 say they will reject the pullout; the other 23 will apparently vote in favor of the withdrawal.

Is Israel now closer to a civil war after the failed meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office? The settler leaders say they hope not and they will do all in their power to prevent it. However, they also warn that tension is running very high among the settles and it could lead to violence. Outside the P.M.’s office, a small number of right-wingers chanted “Sharon is a traitor!”.

As for the crucial 25th vote - at present Sharon can apparently count on:

Likud - 23
Labor - 21
Shinui - 15
Yachad - 6

Total = a 65 seat majority in the 120 member Knesset. However, the Prime Minister will obviously want a bigger majority on such an historic issue. Sharon will obviously try to persuade the ultra-orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism at least to abstain - if they voted in favor, it would be a major coup for the Prime Minister, giving him a decisive victory. What happens if the Knesset votes against the withdrawal? The result would likely be an early election with Bibi Netanyahu challenging Sharon for the Likud Party leadership.

David Essing

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