Knesset approves PM Sharon's disengagement plan

By Gideon Alon, Mazal Mualem and Nadav Shragai

Haaretz Correspondents and Haaretz Service

Cheshvan 12, 5765

The Knesset on Tuesday evening approved Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan by a majority of 67-45. Seven MKs abstained in the vote, while one MK, Yehudit Naot, was absent due to illness.

Education Minister Limor Livnat and Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu initially threatened to abstain in the vote after the ministers managed to secure a deal with the National Religious Party under which the party will not quit the coalition government if a referendum on the pullout plan is held.

Livnat and Netanyahu, along with ministers Yisrael Katz and Dan Naveh, were all absent from the first round of voting. They walked into the plenum as the initial results were being read. They were then given the opportunity to vote on the plan, and they all voted in favor of the withdrawal.

Ministers Silvan Shalom and Tzachi Hanegbi also voted in favor of the plan.

Minutes after the vote, Netanyahu and Livnat announced that they will quit the government, as will ministers Katz and Naveh, if Sharon does not decide to hold a national referendum on the plan within the next 14 days.

The National Religious Party has also given the prime minister 14 days to decide on a national poll. The party promises to remain in the government if the poll is called, whatever the results.

Sharon fires Landau and Ratzon
Sharon fired Minister Without Portfolio Uzi Landau and Deputy Minister Michael Ratzon for voting against his disengagement plan.

Sharon called Ratzon into his chambers a short time after the vote, and handed him a letter of dismissal.

Sharon handed Landau a similar letter a short time later.

Landau has consistently voiced his opposition to the disengagement plan and is seen as the leader of the "rebel" camp in the Likud.

17 Likud MKs vote against plan
Twenty-three Likud MKs voted in favor of the plan, while 17 voted against it. A total of 21 Labor and One Nation MKs voted in favor, as did 14 Shinui MKs, six Yahad MKs, two United Arab List members and one National Union MK (Michael Nuddelman).

All eleven Shas MKs voted against the plan, on the orders of the party's spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, as did six National Religious Party members, six National Union MKs and five United Torah Judaism Mks. Three Hadash MKs and three Balad MKs abstained, as did one One Nation MK.

Labor faction chief MK Dalia Itzik said after the vote that this was a "great day" for Israel.

Shinui leader Yosef Lapid said the final voting result constituted a great victory for Sharon.