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Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Sharon willing to hold national referendum on withdrawal

AP Photo/Oded Balilty

"You always have to look at what is more dangerous."
JPost: Prime Minister Ariel Sharon revealed on Wednesday that he would be willing to support proposals from Likud MKs to hold a national referendum on his plan to withdraw from settlements.

"I do not rule out going to a referendum," Sharon told reporters in the Knesset cafeteria. "I think it's a good idea. I don't rule it out and I will look into the idea. It's important to gauge the opinion of the public."

Sharon said the current diplomatic deadlock is grave and that therefore he feels he must fill the vacuum by taking steps to improve Israel's security. He said his diplomatic plans have nothing to do with the investigations against him.

"There is no connection at all," Sharon said. "[The plan] is not because of [the investigations], it's despite them."

Singling out the Geneva Accord and the Saudi plan, Sharon said his plan is better than the alternatives. "It's never a choice between good and bad," Sharon said. "It's a choice between bad and even worse. You always have to look at what is more dangerous."
According to a UPI/Washington Times story,
a senior government official... said Sharon is concerned... about a possible collapse of law and order in the Palestinian areas that would create a dangerous vacuum. He wants to preempt a situation in which Israel is pressured to send over its troops [to] put an end to anarchy and restore its civil administration...

A unilateral Israeli pullback might prompt an internal Palestinian power struggle between the ruling, though weakened secular Fatah, and the rising Islamic militant Hamas.
Maariv carries this story about the reaction of the military establishment to plans for withdrawal from Gaza:
“This is encouragement for the terrorists, a prize for the Palestinians. It is going to increase the terrorists’ appetite”, said a senior military official...
This view is affirmed by a story at Y-Net (Hebrew only), translated by the good folks at JCPA's Daily Alert:
Two senior leaders of the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades, Hashem Abu Hamdan and Nadir Abu Lil, said Sharon's intention to remove settlements is a victory for the Palestinian resistance, but they want to see an "Israeli flight, like in Lebanon." The two claimed that Palestinians in the West Bank, as well as in Gaza, possess rockets and mortars that will reach the cities of central Israel. They said, "The Israeli separation fence is a cardboard barrier. Soon the Israelis will witness our actions from inside the fence."
Ditto, in a Reuters story at http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=topNews&storyID=4272260
"Sharon's statement no doubt resulted from the greatness of resistance and steadfastness of the Palestinian people," senior Islamic Jihad leader Nafez Azzam told Reuters in reference to the Sharon's bombshell announcement on Monday.
UPDATE: Kofi Annan gave strong backing Wednesday to Sharon's plan to dismantle virtually all Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip, saying it could provide new momentum for Mideast peace . . .