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October 29, 2004 - Image 22

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2004-10-29

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TOUGH VICTORY from page 22

with a split Likud, Sharon may try to
take his portion of the party into an
electoral alliance with Labor and the
centrist Shinui Party. Advocates of this
potential scenario — called the "Big
Bang" of Israeli politics — argue that it
would create a centrist alignment more
accurately reflecting the will of the
Israeli electorate than does the current
political arrangement.
The game plan of Netanyahu, a for-
mer prime minister, likely will be to
force Sharon into an election, hoping to
depose him as Likud leader in the run
up. Then, running at the head of the
Likud, Netanyahu would hope to defeat
any centrist alliance and win power as
the head of a right-leaning government.
What actually happens in the show-
down between Sharon and Netanyahu
will depend initially on how many
Likud legislators each of them is able to
control. The more that are loyal to
Netanyahu, the quicker the election sce-
nario is likely to come about.
In his speech presenting his plan to
the Knesset on Oct. 25, Sharon seemed
to recognize that his own links with the
right, once close, were over, and that his
political future will depend on ties with
the center-left. Uncharacteristically,

Settlers rally outside the Knesset Oct. 26 during the debate on Ariel Sharon's Gaza
disengagement plan.

Sharon lashed out at the settlers, accus-
ing them of a deluded "messianism" that

was hurting Israeli national interests.
In an equally surprising departure, he

made a point of expressing regret for
Palestinian suffering too.
But more than anything, journalists in
the Knesset were struck by Sharon's
determination. He told them he would
not bring the disengagement plan to the
Knesset again, and that the Oct. 26
approval was all he needed. He declared
that he had no intention of resigning,
holding a referendum or sparking new
elections. And he said he was absolutely
determined to carry out the disengage-
ment plan to the letter.
Writing in the Yediot Achronot news-
paper, political analyst Shimon Shiffer
maintained that "the general assessment
among the politicians was that the evac-
uation of the settlements will not hap-
pen: Either because Sharon will have to
go to early elections, or because
Benjamin Netanyahu will force Sharon
to accept a referendum that will delay
the evacuation indefinitely."
In the same newspaper, pundit
Nahum Barnea wrote, "Sharon will have
a plan with a kashrut certificate from the
Knesset but, sooner or later, he won't
have a coalition. The settlers will smell
withdrawal. The politicians will smell
elections." ❑

Split Reaction

Disengagement from Gaza gets vociferous on both sides of the debate.


his plan is absolutely illegiti-
mate. It is forbidden to vote for
it," Shas spiritual mentor Rabbi
Ovadia Yosef said in a sermon Oct. 23.
"If, God forbid, they uproot Jewish
communities, who will come to take
their place? The terrorists."
Rabbi Yosef's comment was just one
of many on both sides of the debate
over Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's
plan to pull all Israeli settlements out of
the Gaza Strip, and four small ones out
of the West Bank.
Several leadinc, b Israeli rabbis said
recently that the plan contravenes Jewish
law, raising fears of a mutiny in military
Earlier this year, Sharon lost a
plebiscite on the plan within his own
Likud Party, and while the Cabinet on
Oct. 4 approved a bill on compensating
settlers -viho agree to relocation and pun-
ishing those who resist evacuation, five
of the six "no" votes belonged to Likud
In the United States, after the Oct. 26
vote, most major Jewish organizations
rushed out statements of support for the
withdrawal plan.



Locally, Steven Silverman, president of
the Jewish Community Council of
Metropolitan Detroit, supported the
vote and said, "Israel can call upon all
Jews and all persons of good will to
stand with it, particularly because it uni-
laterally seeks to promote conditions
from which true and lasting peace in the
Middle East can emerge."
Jerome S. Kaufman of Bloomfield
Hills, national secretary of the Zionist
Organization of America, disagreed.
"Ariel Sharon has been bullying
around his cabinet and the Knesset since
he obtained office," Dr. Kaufman said.
"He had plenty of months to have a
general referendum of the population
and have a true evaluation of what the
Israeli public felt, and elected not to do
so because he's turned out to run the
country as suits his own whim."
National viewpoints included
American Jewish Committee Executive
Director David Harris, who said
Sharon's initiative was "not an easy deci-
sion, but we fully share the Israeli gov-
ernment's view that it was the right deci-
sion to safeguard the future of the State
of Israel.".
National leaders of the Anti-

Defamation League said, "We salute
Prime Minister Sharon's bold initiative
and pledge our public support for the
The chairman and executive vice
chairman of the Conference of
Presidents of Major American Jewish
Organizations expressed "support for the
Knesset vote ... We hope that all parties
will be able to come together to work on
implementation and to minimize divi-
siveness," said James Tisch and Malcolm
Ari Harow, executive director of
American Friends of Likud, said, "I
think it was a tough day for everyone
involved, as the prime minister said
himself. Being that it's such an explosive
issue still amongst the nation, in the
Knesset and definitely within the Likud
Party, we just hope that at some point in
the near future it's resolved so that every-
one can unite around whatever policy it
is that the Israeli public can decide
Nearly all the Jewish groups issuing
statements noted the impending
anniversary of the assassination of Prime
Minister Yitzhak Rabin, urging Israeli
leaders to summon courage for peace

with the-Palestinians, and urging oppo-
nents to avoid violence. The Jewish
Council for Public Affairs recalled
Rabin's memory and said the Knesset
vote "motivates us even more to do all
we can to support his unfulfilled quest
for two states living side by side in peace
and security."
Americans for Peace Now said the
Knesset move was precedent setting.
"Approval of this disengagement plan
sets an important precedent for the evac-
uation of other settlements in the years
ahead," President and CEO Debra
DeLee said.
She called upon Sharon to fulfill its
commitments under the "road map"
peace plan and, "We call upon
Palestinian leaders to capitalize on the
opportunity that disengagement offers
them by demonstrating good gover-
nance in Gaza and fighting terrorism
there to ensure a secure Israeli evacua-
tion." ❑

This report was written by JTA's Dan
Baron in Jerusalem and Rachel Pon2emnce
in New York, and Harry Kirsbaum of the
Detroit Jewish News.

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