Kadima ministers wary of backing realignment
Party members fearful of getting involved in internal dispute on Olmert’s plan to pull out of West Bank. Party official says, ‘Right now what’s certain is that there is a war in Gaza, and the realignment is not on the agenda; if and when a partner will be found, only then will we be able to express an opinion on whether there is any point to implementing the plan’
Several Kadima ministers and MKs are refraining from voicing their support for the realignment plan so as not to get involved of the internal dispute on the matter.
On Monday Housing Minister Meir Sheetrit publicly called out against the plan just hours after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declared his intention to move forward with its implementation. Justice Minister Haim Ramon backed Olmert, saying the plan to unilaterally withdraw from West Bank territories is more relevant now than ever, “and whoever thinks otherwise is mistaken.”
Other Kadima ministers and MKs refused to comment on the plan until the issue is resolved.
“Right now what’s certain is that there is a war in Gaza, and the realignment is not on the agenda,” a senior Kadima official told Ynet. “If and when a partner will be found, only then will we be able to express an opinion on whether there is any point to implementing the plan.”
A growing number of Kadima and coalition members contend that now is not the time to discuss the realignment.
“Olmert’s commitment to President (George W.) Bush and other western leaders, namely (Tony) Blair and (Jacques) Chirac was that Israel would exhaust the negotiations process before implementing the realignment plan,” a senior Kadima source told Ynet.
“He (Olmert) has not even met with (Palestinian President Mahmoud) Abbas, which is a prerequisite for a discussion on the matter. What are they talking about? What realignment plan? There is a war in Gaza, so this (realignment) will be a reward for Hamas, which is attacking us? It is nit relevant at present time.”
However, most of the ministers in Olmert’s cabinet still support the plan.
'Plan may alter the strategic balance'
In addition to the fact that the realignment plan was the basis for Kadima’s victory in the March elections, the supporters truly believe such a move would advance Israel’s interests in its relations with the Palestinians.
“The situait0on in Gaza only proves that the realignment will be good for Israel,” one minister told Ynet. “(Former Prime Minister) Ariel Sharon’s disengagement from Gaza gave us the ability to act more freely and with large IDF forces in Gaza. The disengagement brought us international support and recognition of Israel’s right to act in self-defense in Gaza.”
According to the minister, “the realignment is necessary as it will allow us to protect Israel’s citizens in defensible borders. True, the realignment must follow efforts to exhaust the process of negotiations and after we find out whether the plan is acceptable to the Israeli public. The realignment must come after internal dialogue with the settlers to avoid a rift.”
“Yet, the plan remains the central idea that may alter the strategic balance in the Middle East,” he said.
“We will no longer be held hostage by terror, but rather dictate the moves that will allow us to protect our citizens and realign in settlement blocs, especially around Jerusalem, that will give us the necessary room to maneuver, both domestically and on the international front.