A R C H I V E S
Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|"Israeli Coalition" Crumbles|
|10/30/02 at 16:14:34|
|Israeli Coalition Crumbles After Labor Ministers Quit|
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, October 30 (IslamOnline & News Agencies) - Israeli defense, foreign and culture ministers - all form the Labor Party - resigned Wednesday, October 30, from the government of far-right Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, after Sharon's rejection of a tentative budget deal with Labor that equated funding on social services with that on illegal settlements.
Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres submitted his resignation late Wednesday shortly after the head of his Labor Party, Defense Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer, quit, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.
At the same time, Culture Minister Matan Vilnai likewise quit from the coalition government after talks to thrash out a compromise on a 2003 austerity budget failed.
Ben-Eliezer's resignation came after Sharon's rejection of a tentative budget deal with Labor. The proposed deal was believed to contain language promising that social programs would have parity with funding given to (illegal) Jewish settlements, CNN reported.
The major sticking point in negotiations was $147 million earmarked for the settlements, which is favored by Sharon's Likud party. Labor wants the money diverted to social services benefiting pensioners, one-parent families, students and low-income locales, CNN added.
Negotiators talked past the noon scheduled time for a vote on a new Israeli budget in an attempt to keep together the coalition, of which Labor controls a major part.
Labor voting against the budget and eventual quitting the government means Sharon will be left with a minority of votes in the 120-member Knesset. He will have two options: try to form a new government by appealing to small, right-wing religious parties to join his coalition or call for new elections, according to CNN.
Sharon has been an ardent supporter of building settlements - an instrument of Israeli occupation aimed at dividing any future Palestinian state into noncontiguous portions.
Israel's illegal settler community, which numbers some 200,000 living in occupied Palestinian West Bank land, is claimed by many Israelis as essential for Israel's security. Jewish settlements in Gaza are less populated.
About 200 Jewish colonial settlements have been set up in the West Bank and Gaza Strip since Israel seized the territories in the 1967 Middle East war. All the settlements, according to U.N. resolutions, are illegal. Some 60 so-called "rogue" settlements, often just a cluster of caravans, have popped up in recent years.
According to a June 30, 2002 report by Israeli peace group Peace Now, ever since Sharon came into power in February 2001, Jewish settlers in the West Bank have built 44 new sites.
"Nine of these new sites were erected in the period March-June 2002," the Peace Now report said. It added that "the term 'outposts' is misleading. To all intents and purposes these sites are new settlements: they have independent infrastructures and are spread over new pieces of land."
Peace Now spokesman Tzali Reshef said in a statement that the Israeli government "is systematically violating its commitment to the Israeli public as written in the coalition agreement that formed the basis for the national unity government."
Meanwhile, Israel's daily Ha'aretz reported that attorneys from both Likud and Labor parties met until 2 a.m. in an effort to reach an agreement that called for Labor to support the budget and then hold talks with Likud over revisions before final approval.
However, Ben-Eliezer vetoed the compromise, and Sharon rejected Labor's counter-proposal to delay the vote.
Anticipating the government's collapse, Ben-Eliezer said Tuesday, October 29, that Sharon should meet with him to settle on a date for new elections.
Sharon said legislators must vote for the budget to show Israel's allies - including the United States - that it is serious about putting its economy back on track.
Silvan Shalom, the Israeli Finance Minister, blamed Ben-Eliezer for the crisis, saying the Labor Party leader was playing "local politics" in the face of party primary elections in two weeks, CNN reported.
"Those who decided against this agreement are shaking the stability of the Israeli government," Shalom was quoted by CNN as saying.
Meanwhile, a Palestinian man was shot dead by Israeli security guards protecting Israeli laborers Wednesday after he opened fire on them on a road in the northern West Bank village of Zeita, the Israeli occupation army said, according to AFP.
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