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NRP and NU: One Foot Each Out Of The Government

Arutz Sheva February 10, 2004

NRP head Housing Minister Effie Eitam told Arutz-7 today that he is
determined to quit the government if it approves Sharon’s retreat-and-expulsion
plan. He was asked if Netanyahu would be a worthy successor to Sharon, and

Housing Minister Effie Eitam, head of the National Religious Party, told
Arutz-7 today that he is determined to quit the government if it approves Sharon’s
retreat-and-expulsion plan. “However,” he said, “at this stage, we still want
to give Sharon time to back out, and that’s why we split up yesterday in the
no-confidence vote: the two ministers voted in favor of the government, while
the MKs absented themselves.” The government narrowly squeaked by the votes,
winning by a 47-45 majority. Asked whether Binyamin Netanyahu is a worthy
candidate to succeed Sharon if necessary, Eitam said, “The events of these times
show that the day is coming closer when only men of Torah will be worthy of
bearing the burden of leadership for the State of Israel.”

The other right-wing party in the government – the National Union – will, for
all intents and purposes, quit the government coalition next week if Prime
Minister Sharon does not present his Gaza retreat plan to the Cabinet at the
next meeting this Sunday. The National Union has two ministers and five other
MKs; the NRP has two ministers and four other MKs. Their resignation will leave
the coalition with 55 MKs in the 120-member Parliament.

The NU Knesset faction sent a letter of ultimatum to Prime Minister Sharon
yesterday – a “rough copy” of which was previewed yesterday in an Arutz-7
article, and the full text of which appears below:

“Of late, you have publicized the ‘disengagement plan’ that essentially means
a unilateral withdrawal from large parts of Judea, Samaria and Gaza,
involving the destruction of dozens of blossoming Jewish communities and the uprooting
of thousands of Jewish residents from their land.

“This plan stands in absolute contrast to our Jewish and Zionist world
outlook, according to which our obligation is to build Jewish settlements and not
uproot them; and to base our security on national strength, and not on a panicky
retreat that will be a prize of encouragement to terrorism.

“We hope with all our hearts that you will reverse yourself in time from this
wretched and catastrophic plan. But if you plan in any event to carry it out,
you are duty-bound to bring it, now, for debate and vote in the framework of
the entire government, before it is brought to foreign elements for their
perusal and consent – including the US Administration and the Palestinian

“If the government decides to adopt this plan, we will resign immediately and
fight against it with all the parliamentary and public tools. On the other
hand, if it does not have a majority in the Cabinet, you must bury it and stop
trying to advance it whilst sowing confusion and fear among the public.
“As loyal partners in the government up until now, we wish to make clear in
the firmest manner that you have no right at all to turn us into partners
against our will to the ruinous disengagement plan that is nothing more than fruit
of your own personal view. Neither do you have a right to present this plan as
Prime Minister without conducting a debate and vote in the government. This
is in opposition to all normal governing procedure, and represents nothing less
than a deceit of the public.

“We expect your answer before the next Cabinet meeting, and wish to make
clear that if our demand to bring this for Cabinet debate and vote is not met, we
will no longer view ourselves as obligated to government decisions and to
coalition discipline on the parliamentary plane. We cannot be expected to display
loyalty to the government when the Prime Minister himself ignores it.”

Yesterday afternoon, the NRP faction decided to resign from the government if
Prime Minister Sharon leaves for Washington with his plan to uproot the
Jewish Gaza communities. This was the result of a meeting between NRP leaders and
former Chief Rabbis Avraham Shapira and Mordechai Eliyahu. The Yesha Council
had also previously declared that the only way to stop the plan would be to make
clear that the coalition would fall if Sharon proceeds with it.

National Union leaders also met with Rabbis Shapira and Eliyahu, as well as
with Rabbis Chaim Steiner and Zalman Melamed, late this morning.

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