Today we are saving you, Mr. Sharon
Although this evacuation is not being carried out for the sake of a final status agreement, it will make it possible to achieve one; almost certainly without you. We will not provide you with the reason, or the excuse, to avoid evacuating the settlements in Gaza.
Dear Mr. Prime Minister: The fact that Yahad, which I have the honor of heading, will save your government from being brought down today, in the no-confidence vote that is being submitted against it by the Labor faction, is causing me sleepless nights. After all, we don't have even an iota of confidence in you. Your heavy responsibility for the disaster caused by the superfluous Lebanon War, and your provocative visit to the Temple Mount - which contributed to the outbreak of the intifada, or at least accelerated it - are enough to prevent us from supporting you. During the term of the Barak government, 53 Israelis were killed in the intifada, whereas during your term, in which you promised that peace and security would prevail, nearly 1,000 additional Israelis, and three times as many Palestinians, were killed. That's enough to justify no-confidence in you.
The subject on the agenda is poverty in Israel. Up until 1977, Israel was one of the most egalitarian countries in the world. The Likud, which had the image of representing the poor against the well-fed and the corrupt, has widened the social gaps, something which all the left-wing governments elected in the past 27 years had succeeded in preventing. Your government really did a great job. It turned Israel into one of the Western countries with the greatest gaps between rich and poor. It grants breaks to the rich, reduces taxes for people of means, and proudly and with eyes open, cuts back the allotments to the poor. You occasionally toss out slogans about compassion, as though you were giving a sermon in a synagogue, and give Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu complete freedom of action, with which he is sending Israel into an abyss of inequality and to levels of poverty that are unprecedented in Israel's history.
You could have met the victims of this policy, had you joined me last Wednesday for a meeting with the residents of Shechuna Dalet in Be'er Sheva, who live from allotments and are forced to make do with two to three slices of bread a day.
The disengagement from Gaza, which is the reason why we won't bring you down today, does not bring us great joy, either. We have no doubt that Dov Weisglass was telling the truth in the recent Haaretz interview with Ari Shavit. You whole intention is to give up this undesirable piece of land in order to avoid international criticism concerning the failure to evacuate the illegal outposts, the continuation of the settlement enterprise in the West Bank, the targeted assassinations, the destruction of homes, the construction of the separation fence along a route that annexes Palestinian areas to Israel, and the continuation of the occupation. Afterward, you will do everything possible to place any possible political process into formaldehyde - as one can see from the fact that you are the first prime minister who refuses to enter negotiations without preconditions with the president of Syria.
And in spite of all this, we believe that the fact that you intend to evacuate the settlements in Gaza is an important contribution to the political process, and provides a significant precedent for the future. Although this evacuation is not being carried out for the sake of a final status agreement, it will make it possible to achieve one; almost certainly without you. We will not provide you with the reason, or the excuse, to avoid evacuating the settlements in Gaza. We will adhere to the consistent tradition of the Zionist left, which supports any step to end the occupation, even if it does not originate with us. We will stand on our guard, we will not allow you to easily avoid completion of the task that you have taken upon yourself, and which looked much easier to you a year ago than it does today.
No, this is not a safety net. We are abstaining unilaterally from a vote of no-confidence. We have no interest in being ministers in your government, because as opposed to others, we are not willing to accept collective responsibility for your security and social policy. We reserve the full right to cast a vote of no-confidence if your government makes precedent-setting and far-reaching decisions that we cannot live with. But we will make use of this right only if there is no other way out. We will also be unable to abstain when the state budget is brought to a vote - unless it incorporates changes that will save the hungry children from the Dalet neighborhood in Be'er Sheva. But this vote may be postponed and brought to the Knesset only four months from now.
For the time being, we will overcome our justified desire to see you leave the Prime Minister's Office, because we believe in our ability to cause political developments to deviate from your original intentions. Just as we made it possible for the Geneva Initiative - as you specifically admitted - to raise the idea of unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, we will also work after the withdrawal to promote negotiations with the new Palestinian leadership, toward a final status agreement. This agreement will be based on the Clinton plan and on the Bush initiative. It will be carried out in the context of the road map peace plan and when it is signed, it will be surprisingly similar to that same Geneva Initiative from which you tried to flee.
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