Sharon suffers defeat
by: Sonja Pace - Last updated: 2004-05-03
It was a resounding defeat for Mr. Sharon as almost 60 percent of his own party voted against the disengagement plan.
Mr. Sharon had warned Likud members that a vote against the plan would be a vote against him. In the end, he said he accepts the results of the non-binding ballot, but also vowed not to resign.
The prime minister said all along that disengagement from some Palestinian areas was vital in the absence of realistic prospects for peace. One of Mr. Sharon's strongest supporters, Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said the disengagement plan must go ahead.
"The commitment of this government to change the present reality with which we have to deal is unlimited and will continue and with the leadership of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon we will continue to look for ways that will ultimately change this reality," says Mr. Olmert. "I know it's not going to be easy, but we are going to do it."
Mr. Sharon's plan calls for the removal of all Jewish settlements from the Gaza Strip and the dismantling of four small settlements in the West Bank.
The plan was endorsed by Washington, but was vehemently opposed by Jewish settlers, who organized an effective grassroots campaign against it.
Israeli Parliament member, Yuli Stern of the rightwing National Union party, hailed Sunday's vote. "I would say that the common sense and basic instincts of survival won. People are not that easily manipulated as some guys think, those who sit in the mass media or those who sit in the government," he says. "The people of Israel won the battle."
Justice Minister Tommy Lapid of the centrist Shinui Party said the vote was just within one party and that party does not represent all the people of Israel. The leader of the opposition Labor party, Shimon Peres, has called for new elections.
Although Likud voters have shown their opposition to the plan, opinion polls show the majority of the Israeli public favors it. What route Mr. Sharon now takes after Sunday's defeat is still unclear.
Story supplied by: VOAnews