Likud Rejects Sharon’s Gaza Plan
Members of the Likud Party of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon voted in a referendum Sunday to reject his proposal to withdraw troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip, exit polls showed. The outcome was a setback for Sharon and President Bush, who had strongly endorsed the plan.
Likud voters rejected the nonbinding referendum, which Sharon has called his disengagement plan, by a margin of 25 percent, according to incomplete returns. With 40 percent of the ballots counted, 62 percent of the voters opposed the plan and 37 percent cast ballots in favor. In Jerusalem, where more than half of the eligible Likud voters went to the polls, 72 percent voted against the proposal.
Four hours after the polls opened, a family of five Jewish settlers — a pregnant woman and four of her children — were killed in the Gaza Strip when two Palestinian gunmen ambushed their car. The family reportedly was on its way to Israel, where they were going to distribute fliers urging Likud members to vote against Sharon’s plan. Israeli soldiers killed the two Palestinian attackers in a gun battle.
Shortly before the polls closed at 10 p.m., Israel retaliated by killing four Palestinians in a missile strike on their car in the West Bank city of Nablus. Officials said the men were responsible for numerous attacks against Israelis. About three hours earlier, Israeli helicopters fired three missiles at a high-rise in downtown Gaza City that housed a radio station operated by the Islamic Resistance Movement, or Hamas, another station run by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s Fatah political movement and a newspaper published by the Palestinian Authority. No one was reported killed in the strike.
So, the plan that had everyone up in arms because it was unacceptable to the Palestinians was defeated by the Israeli Right because it was too generous to the Palestinians. I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that this problem will not be solved in the near future.