Pullout opponents say they’ll rally behind PM after vote

30/04/2004 By Haaretz Correspondent Likud members who oppose the disengagement plan will rally behind Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, but only after the referendum is over, Likud Deputy Minister Michael Ratzon, a leading opponent of the disengagement plan, said Friday.

„We will wave the flag of unity no matter what the result is,” Ratzon said at a press conference about the anti-disengagement campaign ahead of Sunday’s party referendum. „The Likud will be unified after the referendum. We are committed to accepting any decision.” Likud Minister Uzi Landau criticized Sharon and his aides for presenting opponents of the disengagement plan as extremists who will cause the downfall of the Likud government. „All we’re saying is what Sharon said half a year ago,” Landau said. The disengagement opponents said their campaign has been successful so far, but warned against complacency. They decided that each minister and Knesset member would be responsible for a particular region during the referendum vote, and that a family from the Gaza settlement bloc of Gush Katif would stand outside each polling station. Meanwhile, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz conducted a meeting of disengagement supporters in Netanya. PM to push plan no matter what Sharon will continue to push for disengagement regardless of the results of Sunday’s Likud referendum on the pullout plan, one of his top advisers said Friday. The adviser, Lior Horev, also said referendum supporters were worried about mustering enough support to gain a majority of votes in favor of the plan to unilaterally disengage from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank, after polls showed more Likud voters were planning to vote against the plan than for it. A Haaretz-Dialog poll published Friday found 36 percent of Likud voters in favor of the plan and 43 percent against it. „We’re certainly worried, we’re certainly concerned,” Lior Horev told Army Radio. But he said Sharon’s supporters had no doubt Likud voters would „show confidence in the prime minister.” „If they understand that this is a vote of no-confidence for the prime minister, I have no doubt that Likud members will, at the end of the day, vote in favor,” said Horev. Meanwhile, the Haaretz poll, which was carried out by the Dialog institute on Wednesday, showed an increase in opposition to the plan. Thirty-six percent of Likud members in the most recent poll said they would vote for the plan, a dip from the 47 percent who expressed support in last week’s poll. The percentage of those who said they would vote against the plan rose from 40 percent last week to 43 percent this week. Eight percent said their vote would change if the referendum were turned into a vote of confidence in Sharon; of those, only 2 percent said they would then go over to Sharon. It appears that the voters do not believe he will retire to his ranch to await the outcome of the attorney general’s probe into the bribery allegations against the prime minister. If the disengagement plan fails to muster sufficient votes, Horev said Friday, Sharon will nonetheless continue to advance the plan. Responding to a question asking whether Sharon was bound to the decisions of the Likud, Horev told his Army Radio interviewer, „Certainly.” However, he then added that Sharon heads the entire country and not just the Likud. „He will accept the results of the Likud, and in addition to that, he will try to act in the ways that are open to him in order to move the plan forward,” Horev said. Sharon has recently said the referendum has no legal standing, and Justice Minister Yosef (Tommy) Lapid sent Sharon a letter this week demanding that he bring the plan to the cabinet and Knesset for approval even if it fails to pass the referendum.