Tuesday, March 22, 2005


Disengagement/Budget/Referendum Mess Gets Even More Tangled

OK, so I thought I was pretty on top of things in terms of the upcoming Israeli budget decision coming up. But now, a whole new monkeywrench has been thrown into the mix. A referendum on the disengagement from Gaza, which Sharon previously opposed, has now been tied to the budget by the Likud "rebels", such that their support will allow for the budget to pass in committee (but not necessarily in the Knesset as a whole). And now, Shas, which previously had opposed a referendum and the budget (I think I have that right) is now offering support for the referendum (but maybe not the budget?). Of course, this will affect the way that the other "undecided" parties are going to view the budget as well. Those who may have supported the budget in order to pave the way toward disengagement will see the referendum as essentially a stall tactic that may just nix the disengagement plan. And that would be bad, because they certainly would be opposed to the budget if its passage was not linked directly to the disengagement plan. The essence of this agreement, then, is that Sharon thinks that he can count on some right-wing parties who support the referendum (and not the disengagement plan) and in general feel more comfortable with the budget more than he would like to have to count on the left-wing and Arab parties. No real shock there, of course, given Sharon's political leanings, but I think it should serve as a reminder to all those who think that the disengagement is already a done deal, that there is nothing that can stop it, that it will set off a process of settlement removal that is irreversible--I think it should as a reminder that this is not the case. Nothing is set in stone.

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