NRP's Yahalom Rejects Party Chief's Call to Quit Government

National Religious Party MK Shaul Yahalom on Monday rejected party chairman Effi Eitam's comments urging all party members to resign from the government, as he and Yitzhak Levy did in June to protest the disengagement plan.

If all members of the NRP had quit the government, Yahalom told Israel Radio, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon would have been carrying out a "mega-disengagement."

Yahalom said the NRP members want to defeat the disengagement plan from within government, and criticized Eitam and Yitzhak for being so "childish" as not to understand the situation.

"The one chance not to have disengagement is to preserve a weak government, a government without the Labor Party, for another few months -and then it won't be worth it for the Labor Party to join, and we'll really go for elections in about half a year," said Yahalom. "Only the NRP is doing this."

Eitam said Sunday that NRP officials should quit the government without delay. "Today we have an opportunity to stop Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's aggressive policies and to topple his government," he said.

MK Yitzhak Levy on Sunday called for the party's governing body to convene and announce the NRP's withdrawal from the coalition.

"The opening of the disengagement administration office shows that the prime minister discounts his party and the rules of democracy and is going forward with his plan to dismantle settlements," Levy said.

The Yesha Council of Settlements also called on the NRP to quit the coalition immediately.

"Staying in the government turns the NRP into a partner in the crime of the destruction of the settlements," it said in a statement.

Rivlin: Sharon and Netanyahu should run togetherSharon and Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should run together in the next elections to prevent a split in the Likud, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin suggested recently.

Rivlin (Likud) proposed Sharon and Netanyahu reach an agreement before the next elections to run together so as to preserve the party's integrity.

"The two must agree to run together as Nos. 1 and 2 with a rotation in the middle of the term - so that each one serves two years as prime minister - or some other way," he said, adding, "both of them support the disengagement plan."

Rivlin raised this idea recently in separate talks with Sharon and Netanyahu. The bureaus of both the prime minister and Netanyahu refused to comment.

A Netanyahu supporter said Sunday: "If Netanyahu receives an official proposal, he should consider it favorably. Nobody can guarantee him a victory over Sharon in a face-off."

Sources close to both men said the political atmosphere is not ripe for such a far-reaching move. The main threat to this kind of agreement is the mutual lack of trust between the two sides.