K'nesset Member Natan Sharansky resigns from coalition government to protest planned Gaza withdrawal

Tuesday, May 3, 2005

Map of Gaza Strip

Sharansky’s resignation as Minister of Diaspora Affairs and Jerusalem was accepted by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at Sunday’s cabinet meeting.

“I believe [the Gaza withdrawal] is a tragic plan that makes us pay an extremely high price for nothing, and also encourages terror,” Sharansky said. “The only aim of the current government is the implementation of the disengagement plan, and therefore it is wrong, even immoral, for me to remain a part of this government.”

Sharansky said that although he was always against what he calls the “so-called disengagement plan,” he decided to leave the government once the battle against the withdrawal was no longer able to be waged from within the government. “Our main battle now is public opinion, because the struggle in the government is finished,” he said.

Although he hopes to take the struggle to the people, the former minister hopes his move will pave the way for other politicians to follow their consciences. “I don’t know how effective my quitting will be,” Sharansky said, “but I hope it will encourage other politicians and ministers to at least vote according to what they believe and what they think.”

The former prisoner of Zion (who served time in a Soviet prison for wanting to emigrate to Israel) says his main objection to the plan to withdraw from Gaza and northern Samaria is the fact that the withdrawal is not contingent on the creation of democracy within the Palestinian Authority. “I have promoted the spread of democracy as the only answer for thirty years. And now, at the time when an American president declares these principles and promotes them, an Israeli PM comes along and does the exact opposite.”

Although he has in the past supported withdrawal from parts of the land of Israel, Sharansky says the current plan goes too far. “We cannot control another people and we will need serious compromise, but that compromise does not include giving another people the ability to destroy us... as if we run from Gaza, Gaza will not run after us.”

Sharansky, whose Yisrael B’Aliyah party merged with the ruling Likud party after last elections, has maintained good relations with Sharon. “I had many opportunities to present my point of view to the Prime Minister, both publicly and privately,” Sharansky said. “He believes the withdrawal will give us ten years free from world pressure during which to build the settlement blocs of Gush Etzion, Maaleh Adumim and Ariel. I told him we will not have ten years – we will not even have ten days free from pressure, because we are legitimizing one-sided withdrawals from Jewish areas – each withdrawal will only invite more pressure.”

“We are speaking about three generations of Jews that were sent on the important mission by the Israeli government and made an empty desert into a blossoming garden. Now we will just destroy all these beautiful communities, with their unique agriculture and incredible Judaism - for what?” Sharansky asks.

“For nothing,” he added, “as a reward for terrorism.”