Skip to comments.(Israel's) PM (Sharon) wins war of wills with Likud rebels on State Budget bill
Posted on 01/12/2005 3:00:01 PM PST by anotherview
Last Update: 12/01/2005 23:03
PM wins war of wills with Likud rebels on State Budget bill
By Mazal Mualem and Zvi Zrahiya, Haaretz Correspondents
The Knesset on Wednesday approved the first reading of the 2005 State Budget bill after the Likud rebels decided to support it. The bill was passed by a majority of 64 to 53 MKs, thus preventing a deep parliamentary crisis as sources close to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon warned that if the bill was rejected, Sharon would not hesitate to call on new elections.
The anti-disengagement Likud rebels decided earlier on Wednesday to vote in favor of the first reading of the budget bill.
The rebels' decision, however, only defers a crisis that will resurface when the bill will be brought to its second and third readings in March.
Following the vote, the Prime Minister's office announced Sharon will meet on Thursday with Shas' Knesset faciton leader as part of an effort to include the ultra-Orthodox party in the coalition.
If Shas joins the coalition, Sharon could carry out the planned Gaza disengagement with Labor's support, while still being able to pass the budget bill.
Some rebels had argued that they should oppose the budget to maintain the momentum created by opposing Sharon's new government in the Knesset Monday, while others advocated either backing the government or abstaining from the vote.
One suggestion voiced by several rebels was to link support for the budget on Sharon's promising a referendum on the disengagement plan.
The vote was the first test for Sharon's new government, which still is tottering dangerously and faces internal Likud opposition that could trigger new elections.
Sharon's new coalition has 64 members, from Likud, Labor and United Torah Judaism.
Had at least five of the 13 rebels voted against the government in the budget reading, it would have been rejected.
Likud MK Michael Ratzon, one of the rebel leaders, advocated voting against the budget.
"Sharon has left us no choice," Ratzon said Tuesday. "We have to vote against the budget to bring him to realize that he has to talk to us, that he cannot continue to do exactly what he pleases."
Ratzon said the rebel camp has to widen its campaign against the disengagement plan in order to capitalize on its advantage now. "Our interim goal is to force Sharon to recognize that he cannot avoid a referendum if he wants to legitimize his pullout plan in the public's eyes. If the final move to prevent the disengagement plan is toppling the government, then so be it."
Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also joined the government's effort to convert the rebels. Netanyahu spoke by telephone to all 13 rebels, and asked them to support the budget on the grounds that it does not include funding for the pullout, which was separated from the main budget several months ago.
Netanyahu asked rebel camp leader MK Uzi Landau to try and persuade his colleagues at Wednesday's caucus to back the budget. Landau replied that it is common knowledge that the budget reserve is earmarked for settlement evacuation.
Nevertheless, Landau did not clarify his position on the plenum vote, telling Netanyahu that he would make up his mind only Wednesday.
The shaky condition of Sharon's coalition now means that bringing in Shas could be a stabilizing factor. The prime minister now intends to reopen talks with the ultra-Orthodox party, with the goal of expanding his coalition even further.
...and with that, lilah tov. Sweet dreams to all
Sharon is perhaps one of the most skilled politicians in the world. I support the Gaza withdrawal (although I think he should allow a national referendum, which he would easily win because 3/4's of Israel supports his plan and because it would quiet down the far-right settler movement). However, the fact that Sharon has remained in power after facing corruption allegations, the breakup of his government, a split in his own party, ongoing violence, etc., etc., one can only agree that he is indeed one of the great politicians of our time (next to Bush and Blair of course) and no doubt a great contributor to the war on terror.
:') Yes, remarkable. He's been in Israeli cabinets for a long time, and has had very deep connections for a long time. I think I'd have said, "no doubt a great adversary of world terrorism." ;')
Abba Eban wrote and narrated a series on the history of modern Israel, and it's otherwise pretty good, but of course he uses it for political score-settling, and aggrandizes himself, Rabin, and the Oslo "agreement". He makes some petty comments about Sharon, but what they were escapes me.
Something I don't get about Shinui:
Thanks to their leaving the coalition government, UTJ and now possibly Shas are in it. They left over pork for UTJ, if I recall correctly - surely it would be more important for them to stay in government and prevent a lurch to the right.
I oppose the disengagement plan simply because Israeli blood was spilled during wars of defense. Indeed, if Sharon's disengagement plan is put into effect this summer, I hope that wholesale IDF refusals bring the whole thing to a halt.
I have 2 key problems with Sharon. First, he has turned the Likud into a font of patronage, away from the ideological goals the party one held (i.e. Israeli control over historical Palestine). Also, corruption has followed the PM and Omri for the past years.