Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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7 Iyar 5764 - April 28, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Politica: Sharon's Battle for Disengagement: Overcoming Voter Indifference

By E. Rauchberger

As the gap between supporters and opponents of the disengagement plan narrows--to just 4 percent according to a recent survey--the anxiety level at the Prime Minister's Office is rising. After all the trips to Washington, the big meeting with Bush and the successful campaign to garner the support of Netanyahu, Livnat, Shalom and other top ministers, now the plan stands the risk of not passing the Likud referendum.

Sharon and his staff are worried over indifference. While opponents will come streaming to the polls to cast their votes, the silent majority might not make the effort.

Sharon is girding himself for battle and going after Likud voters himself. He will take advantage of every opportunity the media gives him, not relying on others to get the job done, for if the plan does not pass the Prime Minister will be the only one to pay the price.

Ehud Olmert, who wants to gain publicity for himself at least as much as for the disengagement plan, took a bus and started traveling all around the country, from one Likud branch to the next.

Netanyahu, Livnat and Shalom will vote in favor of the plan, but cannot be expected to set off on the campaign trail to help Sharon bring supporters to the polls unless Sharon asks the ministers personally. And even if he does ask them they will not be enthusiastic.

The disengagement plan belongs to the Prime Minister alone and he assumes all the risk. Only Sharon stands to gain or lose. If it passes they will be on the winning side and if not they won't shed any tears over what becomes of Sharon.

As soon as Netanyahu realized he had nothing to lose, the Finance Minister stopped wavering. In taking a stance he also managed to extract something from Sharon: a pledge that the separation barrier would be completed before the withdrawal from Gaza is carried out.

The moment Netanyahu voiced his support for the plan Sharon no longer needed Silvan Shalom. Even if he joined the opposition, nobody in the Likud stands a chance against Sharon and Netanyahu together. Shalom quickly realized that this time he would not stand to gain from dallying and that he had no choice but to support the plan.

But Shalom has a problem. If the plan passes, the right-wing parties resigns and Labor joins the government, Shalom will have to step down from his post as Foreign Minister to make room for Shimon Peres. In exchange for supporting the plan, Shalom wanted a guarantee he would not have to leave the Foreign Ministry. But after Netanyahu's announcement his support no longer carried any weight and such a guarantee was out of the question.

Now the Foreign Minister is hoping the right-wing parties won't resign, at least not right after the decision is reached but when the disengagement is actually carried out, which could be a year or more down the line. Welfare Minister Zevulun Orlev, unable to come to terms with the thought that he may have to part with his job at the peak of his career-- leaving the Volvo and the minister's office behind--is already speaking out against resigning from the government following the decision on the disengagement plan. For now however, Effi Eitam, the chairman of his party, thinks otherwise though he could still change his mind.

HaIchud HaLeumi Chairman Avigdor Liberman is resolved to pull his party out of the government if the plan is approved. But he too might have a sudden change of heart.

As former head of the Likud Party, Liberman recently sent a letter out to the party's 200,000 voters urging them to vote against the plan. Liberman must demonstrate staunch resolution to resign from the government if the plan passes. As soon as he shows any laxness all of the sway he holds with Likud voters will dissipate.

HaIchud HaLeumi has yet to say its final word as well. They are not very willing to let Labor--and definitely not Shas-- inherit the throne from them.

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