Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

3 Nissan 5764 - March 25, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Politica: Sharon at Work

By E. Rauchberger

In days long gone the chachomim of Spain who held official posts would employ a cabas whose job it was to herald his planned arrival to ensure that he was received with due honor.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is not one of chachmei Sfarad but he has a cabas of his own by the name of Ehud Olmert. Everything Olmert has said or predicted, Sharon has soon carried out.

Olmert spoke about the plan to withdraw from Gaza well before Sharon ever mentioned it. Most observers did not attach much significance to his remarks--"once a leftist, always a leftist," they said to themselves--but those in the know paid careful attention, realizing he was speaking for Sharon and laying the public groundwork.

Last week Olmert said the Prime Minister might draw certain conclusions regarding a few Likud ministers because of their opposition to the Gaza disengagement plan. Olmert said the Prime Minister is in charge of setting state policy and other ministers--certainly ranking ministers, and most certainly ranking ministers whose job it is to explain Israel's policy to the world--should not oppose his stance.

Olmert was referring primarily to Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and even more to Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom. Instead of backing Sharon on his disengagement plan Shalom, whose presents Israel's position to the world, is voicing opposition to any unilateral move.

Sources close to Sharon say he would not have pursued the disengagement plan if he were not convinced that a majority of the government would approve it. They expect the plan will win the support of the five Shinui ministers and all six Likud ministers for a total of 11 supporters out of 23 ministers. All Sharon has to do is persuade one other minister or induce two to abstain.

But if Netanyahu and Shalom stand united against him, and definitely if Limor Livnat joins them, Sharon will have a real problem on his hands.

Heavy Fog Over Gaza

Sharon is hard at work trying to secure a majority in the government and the Knesset for his disengagement plan and to guarantee an alternative to the present government in the event the right-wing parties, the NRP and HaIchud HaLeumi, resign.

According to a preliminary vote-count taken by the Prime Minister's Office the plan will garner at least 70 MKs, but still Sharon does not want to take any chances. After a year of total severance and even rivalry following the coalition with Shinui, the Prime Minister summoned Shas Chairman MK Eli Yishai to ask him to support the disengagement plan, though Sharon has no intentions of bringing Shas into the coalition.

Meanwhile he continued wooing the Labor Party not just on the Knesset vote, which Labor has already pledged to support, but also towards the possibility of a unity government should the right-wing parties resign.

Despite his wide-flung outreach efforts Sharon is laying a heavy fog over the disengagement plan itself, taking every measure to ensure that no details leak out.

Recently the Knesset forced Sharon to attend a meeting on the disengagement plan through a special Knesset procedure that requires the Prime Minister to take part in a meeting on any issue if 40 MKs sign a demand for him to appear at the meeting and speak on the issue. The media played up the meeting for days, but the Prime Minister's Office just chuckled over the reports, knowing Sharon would not reveal a crumb of new information. Indeed when Sharon's turn came he said nothing new, but when the incessant heckling from the opposition benches began to annoy him Sharon turned to them as if speaking to a small child and said, "I will not provide details until I have briefed Likud members, coalition members and the Opposition Chairman."

Although Security and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Yuval Steinmetz is a Likud member, his curiosity apparently got the best of him too, and he tried a trick of his own to extract information. He summoned National Security Council Chairman Giora Eiland, the man who has every detail of the disengagement plan under his thumb, in an effort to induce him to share some of what he knows. Eiland is not a seasoned politician like Sharon, and the veteran MKs sitting on the committee thought they could induce--with a bit of pressure and a lot of cunning--a slip of the tongue.

But in the end Sharon outmaneuvered them. When he heard about Eiland's scheduled appearance at the last minute, Sharon told him to cancel saying he had been summoned to a special meeting with the Prime Minister at exactly the same time. Sharon could easily have planned the meeting just to provide Giora an official reason for not being able to appear before the committee, showing Sharon is prepared to do whatever it takes to keep a lid on all the details of the disengagement plan.

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