Israeli parliament rejects disengagement referendum
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
Israel's parliament, the Knesset, voted against a bill calling for a referendum on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's controversial plan to withdraw Israeli forces and civilians from the Gaza Strip and some parts of the West Bank. The vote passed 72-39, with three abstentions and six absent. The vote removes the last major hurdle for Mr. Sharon to implement the proposed plan, scheduled to start in July.
Mr. Sharon's administration has not yet survived the upcoming vote on the 2005 budget, which takes place on Tuesday. But it has secured the support of the secular Shinui party, so a majority looks likely. Shinui had reservations about the amount of money transferred under the budget to projects organised by ultra-Orthodox parties. Under Israeli law, if the budget fails to pass, new elections must be held. Opponents of the disengagement plan intend to use the budget vote to topple Mr. Sharon's government, and several MK's attacked Shinui for their decision to support the budget.
Mr. Sharon's position sparked a rebellion from his own center-right Likud party, with a significant majority of Likud MKs voting in favour of the bill, including several members of his own cabinet. Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, and Education Minister Limor Livnat all voted in favour of a referendum.