Likud panel decides to hold referendum on pullout on April 29

The Likud party’s central election committee on Sunday accepted Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s proposal to hold a Likud referendum on his disengagement plan on April 29, immediately after Independence Day.

11/04/2004 By Mazal Mualem, Haaretz Correspondent, Haaretz and BPI.Service and Agencies The decision on the date came a day before Sharon was to leave for Washington, where he hopes to win endorsement for his plan from President George W. Bush. The two are to meet on Wednesday at the White House. The government will vote on the plan on Sunday, May 1, and later on the plan will be brought before a Knesset vote. The committee also decided that Sharon will present the details of his plan to committee chairman judge Zvi Cohen by April 18, and that the plan would be sent immediately to all 200,000 registered Likud members eligible to vote. The vote will take place between 10 A.M and midnight, and voters will be able to cast ballots for or against the plan, or to abstain. Likud legal adviser Eitan Haberman said Sunday the referendum question would not present details of disengagement, but would only ask whether Likud members are for or against Sharon’s plan. Haberman’s comments come after a demand from Likud MK Gilad Erdan, one of the party’s main opponents of the separation plan, that Sharon’s request to move up the date of the referendum be rejected. Erdan argues that the Likud committee should allow at least 21 days of discussion about the plan starting from when Sharon releases its details – which, says Erdan, have yet to be made public. „The question isn’t a question,” Haberman told Israel Radio. „The question is the plan that the prime minister is presenting, for or against. There is no definition.” There are no set laws for carrying out the referendum because it has no precedent, Haberman said Sunday. „It must be remembered that this phenomenon, the phenomenon of carrying out a referendum of party members or a national referendum in Israel, is a first,” he said. The timing of the referendum, as well as the disengagement plan itself, faces opposition in the Likud. Erdan has said scheduling the referendum immediately after Israel’s Memorial Day and Independence Day would force Likud members to canvass on these days, showing disrespect for the memorial and holiday observances. Likud MK Yisrael Katz announced Sunday, a day after meeting with Sharon on the disengagement plan, that he is against it. „I definitely oppose this plan,” Katz told Army Radio on Sunday. „It breaks a few key principles” even with the reported American guarantees, he said.