Photo: Dan Balaliti
Does he have any tricks left up his sleeve? PM Sharon
Photo: Dan Balaliti
Photo: Reuters
Will he force Sharon out? Netanyahu
Photo: Reuters

Microphone damaged; PM leaves

Prime minister leaves Likud Central Committee meeting without delivering his speech after microphone damaged. Earlier, Benjamin Netanyahu blasts PM, says whole families uprooted from homes without getting anything in return. Foreign Minister Shalom, who objects to early primaries: Are we Shiite suicide bombers?

(VIDEO) In an embarrassing episode, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon left Sunday’s Likud Central Committee meeting before he was able to deliver his speech, after unknown saboteurs damaged the microphone.


A Likud source said someone apparently poured a bucket of water on the electrical system outside the northern Tel Aviv venue, as associates of both Sharon and Netanyahu blamed the other camp for the fiasco.


Sharon leaves early (Video: Yaron Brenner)

Sharon, who already took to the podium, returned to his seat due to the microphone troubles. He later took the stage again, but was unable to speak and eventually decided to depart.


A man who identified himself as Udi informed a Ynet reporter he and several other Gaza evacuees were behind the microphone fiasco.


“Sharon disconnected us from home, and we’ll disconnect him from the microphone and from power,” the statement, which was not officially confirmed by any settler organization, read.


Before Sharon got up with the intention of speaking, a group of Committee members left the venue in protest, holding orange notes. The PM’s speech, which remained undelivered, read: “The vote tomorrow is not a technical vote. It’s a move meant to remove me and an expression of no-confidence in the way the Likud has been leading the country, and all because of desire for revenge and uncontrollable personal ambition.”


“This will be suicide that would crush the Likud and lead it to one place only, the opposition,” the speech read. “Tomorrow we’ll have to decide which way we’re choosing and what kind of Likud we want. We will decide whether it will be Likud at the heart of the national consensus or a radical Likud pushed to the margins. A large, influential ruling party or a small party without influence just like the one I received six years ago.”


Tempers flare at Likud meeting (Photo: Yaron Brenner)


'We need decision now'


The Likud Central Committee convened Sunday evening to face one of the most difficult decisions in the ruling party’s history – whether to bring forward Likud leadership primaries, a proposal seen as a direct challenge against Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.


MK Benjamin Netanyahu took to the podium around 8 p.m., accompanied by cheers on the one hand and jeers on the other. “Are we Likud or left of Meretz?” he said and called for early primaries, saying “we need a decision now.”


"I say this because Labor leader Amram Mitzna said he would remove a few isolated settlements, while Yossi Beilin said he would remove all the settlements in the West Bank, in exchange for a peace settlement," Netanyahu said. "Only the Likud evacuates settlements to the last centimeter, going against its promises to its voters."


Bibi also said Israel received nothing in exchange for evacuating the Gaza Strip.


"This move did not bring us closer to peace or boost security. The Hamas is taking over Gaza, and the Palestinian Authority is in effect destroyed," Netanyahu said


Earlier, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said in his speech at "whoever looks at us now is probably wondering, 'what are they talking about? Another two months, or less?'", referring to the proposal for early primaries, which he objects.


Emotions high at Likud meeting (Photo: Yaron Brenner)


"We have tried fighting each other in the past, and to what end? Are we Shiite suicide bombers?" Shalom asked


In his speech, Likud leadership candidate Uzi Landau turned to PM Sharon and said: “Do you really think you represent us?”


“You spoke about painful concessions and you also spoke about a Palestinian state, but, and this ‘but’ is more important than anything else, you spoke about first dismantling terrorism, and finding a partner, and negotiations, and agreement, and only later painful concessions.”


MK Kara faints after speech


Meanwhile, Minister Meir Sheetrit said: “I haven’t seen a party willing to give up power with such madness.”


Sheetrit, who objects to early primaries, said the Likud could disintegrate should the proposal to push the primaries forward win a majority.


Minister Limor Livnat, who earlier said she supports early primaries, turned to PM Sharon and asked whether he was staying in the Likud unconditionally.


“You turned your back on the settlers you once called heroes,” she said. “This requires an explanation. We must build and quickly in Jerusalem…we must not enter into negotiations without curbing terror.”


Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, a Sharon supporter said, "tomorrow's vote is not only a vote over pushing up the primaries, but on pushing up the elections as well."


"The question is what kind of a Likud we want," she added, and made it clear she opposes early elections. 


Objectors to and supporters of early primaries followed each other to the podium in a bid to convince Committee members with their speeches. One of the speakers, Knesset Member Ronny Bar-On, warned that early primaries could bring the Left back to power, as was the case in the 1992 elections won by late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.


“Where are you running? What is this madness? Don’t bring the Left back to power,” he said.


MK Ehud Yatom said "we are fighting over the Likud's way, over restoring democracy to the Central Committee."


"We must push up the primaries not because of Sharon, Bibi or Landau, but because we have lost the way. We are now more left-wing than Meretz," he said.


Meanwhile, Knesset Member Ayoob Kara fainted after completing his speech. Kara concluded his speech with shouts, left the stage and then fainted.


At the start of the evening, Committee members were engaging in loud arguments in favor and against early primaries, with some activists resorting to pushing and shoving. Meanwhile security guards videotaped members who are causing disturbances.


Sharon supporters were chanting “Arik is the king of Israel” and yelling out Sharon objectors “we won’t allow you to ruin the Likud.” However, supporters of leadership candidate Uzi Landau said many of those making the chants are not Committee members.


The first speaker in the session, Committee member Eli Sheetrit, said Sunday’s meeting is “fateful for the people of Israel, the Land of Israel, and the Likud.”


However, Ramat Gan Mayor Zvi Bar replied: “Let’s be worthy of this nation and stop driving it crazy every three months. The people want quiet. Give them quiet, not just desires and personal quarrels.”


“Those who are responsible, will vote so that the prime minister continues to lead until the end of his term,” Bar said.


'You didn't have a majority'


Turning to Sharon, Sheerit said: “You knew you didn’t have a majority yet you did whatever you wanted. You were elected by acts that border on the criminal, which your son Omri admitted to…you treated Likud members rudely.”


Outside the session, which is taking place at a northern Tel Aviv venue, about 20 Labor party young guard activists protested against what they characterized as “corruption in the Central Committee.” Later, the protesters were removed by police.


At this time, the contest is too close to call, even after Education Minister Limor Livnat announced earlier she is backing Netanyahu and supporting earlier primaries.


"In recent weeks I have made many efforts to find a compromise date," said Livnat. "In light of recent developments, I call for the bringing forward of primaries in order to rehabilitate the Likud and unite the ranks. This way, in the next elections Likud can come to power as a stronger and more unified party."


פרסום ראשון: 09.25.05, 17:38
 new comment
This will delete your current comment