The prime minister was forced to leave Sunday’s Likud convention without delivering his speech after the microphone on the podium was mysteriously disconnected. Around midnight, Deputy Likud Director-General Rafi Duek filed a complaint in connection with the embarrassing incident.
The dramatic, and some say ridiculous, developments diverted attention momentarily from the “big game,” namely the Likud vote on bringing forward the ruling party’s primaries, in a direct challenge to Sharon’s leadership.
Voting on the proposal will open at 10 a.m. Monday and end at 10 p.m. the same day. Results are expected to be announced around midnight Monday.
Microphone goes silent
Seconds before Sharon took to the podium to deliver his speech, it became apparent that the microphone was not working. The prime minister's advisors, Likud administrators and technicians rushed to try and solve the problem, but for the second time in the evening the PM's attempt to address the Committee members failed.
Someone, or something, apparently caused the microphone to go silent.
Speculations and rumores started circulating shortly after the incident, inside and outside the north Tel Aviv venue, with Sharon and Bibi supporters trading accusations over the incident.
Likud spokesman Shmulik Dahan was quick to issue a statement on behalf of Likud Director-General Arik Barami, saying that "the damage to the microphones was apparently caused by someone dumping water over the electric system outside the hall."
Emotions run high at Likud convention (Photo: Yaron Brenner)
Sharon's opponents immediately pointed the finger at the PM's advisors, and MK Michael Ratzon said "someone will have to be held responsible for this spin, which constitutes criminal sabotage."
Ratzon added that the Shin Bet and the Likud administration are the only bodies that have access to the electric system.
MK Ayoob Kara said he expected something like this to happen. "I knew there would be surprises, but not such a nasty surprise, because we demanded the PM be respected, and that no provocations take place. Security was tight, and it was impossible to damage the electric system," he said.
Sources at Netanyahu's office said the incident is "a provocation typical of Sharon's people. It was either a provocation, or negligence on the part of the organizers."
Chairman of the Knesset's Constitution Committee, MK Michael Eitan called on the attorney general to personally supervise the investigation into the microphone incident.
"This incident is not to be taken lightly. This is political terror," Eitan said.
A person identifying himself as Udi sent a beeper message to a Ynet reporter, stating he assumes responsibility for the sabotaged amplifiers. The message said "several Gush Katif evacuees assume responsibility for disconnecting the microphones during Sharon's speech. Sharon disconnected us from our homes, and we will disconnect him from the microphone and the government."
The authenticity of the message was not confirmed by any settler official.
Sharon's supporters were also quick to level accusations in connection with the disgraceful event. Responding to the accusations, former Head of the Gaza Beach regional council Avner Shimoni said "we strongly object to this latest spin by the Sharon family."
"The people of Gush Katif have proved all along the struggle that this is not their way. The person responsible for this had better stand up and admit it, instead of accusing others," Shimoni said.
Police: We are not ushers
Chief Commander of the Yarkon district police unit, Brigadier General Aharon Ezra told Ynet, "It is not our job to be ushers. We sent 60 police officers to the scene to maintain order, since a few demonstrations were taking place outside the building."
However, the police already launched an unofficial investigation to examine the circumstances of the microphone incident. Several officers questioned the owner of the sound company, Michel Mark. The Police also stated that the electric system is located outside the hall and outside the "sterile zone," and therefore any damage caused to it does not indicate a breach of security
Meanwhile, sound company director Mark told Ynet that his equipment was in order and that he does not know what might have caused the problem with the microphone.
Avi Cohen contributed to the story