Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

25 Nissan 5765 - May 4, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Sharansky quits Government over Withdrawal

by Yated Ne'eman Staff

Minister of Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs Natan Sharansky has left the Israeli government rather than take part in the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Sharansky tendered his resignation Monday, accusing the Sharon government of failing to demand Palestinian reform as a prerequisite to peace moves.

"As you know, I have opposed the disengagement plan from the beginning, on the grounds that I believe any concessions in the peace process must be linked to democratic reforms within Palestinian society," Sharansky wrote in an open letter to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

"I no longer feel that I can faithfully serve in a government whose central policy — indeed, sole raison d'etre — has become one to which I am so adamantly opposed," wrote Sharansky.

Sharon, who lost two right-wing coalition partners and a Cabinet member from his own Likud Party last year over the plan to withdraw from Gaza and the northern West Bank this summer, took Sharansky's walkout in stride. He voiced regret at the decision and thanked Sharansky for "combating antisemitism the world over."

In quitting the Cabinet Sharansky is effectively outside of Israeli politics, because he does not hold a Knesset seat.

Sharansky already was absent from Monday's Cabinet meeting, where former colleagues commended his resignation as an act of integrity.

In a long letter that he made public explaining his move, Sharansky wrote, "As you know, I have opposed the disengagement plan from the beginning on the grounds that I believe any concessions in the peace process must be linked to democratic reforms within Palestinian society. Not only does the disengagement plan ignore such reforms, it will in fact weaken the prospects for building a free Palestinian society and at the same time strengthen the forces of terror.

"Will our departure from Gaza encourage building a society where freedom of speech is protected, where independent courts protect individual rights, and where free markets enable Palestinians to build an independent economic life beyond government control? Will our departure from Gaza end incitement in the Palestinian media or hate-filled indoctrination in Palestinian schools? Will our departure from Gaza result in the dismantling of terror groups or the dismantling of the refugee camps in which four generations of Palestinians have lived in miserable conditions?

"Clearly, the answer to all these questions is no."

Despite polls showing that most Israelis support the Gaza plan, it has deepened rancor in the right-wing of Israeli society to the point where some officials fear there may be major civil strife. Concern for the Jewish state's internal harmony was another motivation cited in Sharansky's letter.

"We are heading toward a terrible rift in the nation, and to my great chagrin I feel that the government is making no serious effort to prevent it," he wrote.

However no one feels that serious conflict is inevitable at this point. If the agreement on a mass move to Nitzanim takes effect, it may defuse a lot of the opposition.

Sharansky was jailed in the Soviet Union in 1977 on charges of spying for the United States. He spent a decade in Soviet prisons before international pressure forced the Soviet government to allow him to leave.

He recently published a book, The Case for Democracy, which is a best seller. US President Bush and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice publicly praised the book. It argues that democracy as a political system is crucial to building a stable, modern society, and that there is no alternative. US President Bush has hailed it as validating his policies in Iraq.


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