MER Comment

"We won't fold! We won't fold!" So chanted many hundreds of Likud Central Committee members on Monday night, capping their enthusiastic response to a speech by Hisdai Eliezer, Mayor of the Alfei Menashe Regional Council in western Shomron.

Eliezer, who also serves as Deputy Chairman of the Yesha Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, reminded the party members of Ariel Sharon's call four years ago to "run and take the hilltops." "We knew that he supported us," Eliezer said, "so what happened now that he is suddenly trying to uproot us? There is no Palestinian partner in dialogue, and the suicide terrorists continue to try to murder us. Giving up outposts is a reward for terrorism!"

Speaking later with Arutz-7, Hisdai took an even stronger tone:
"Until now, even though Sharon supported a PA state, he seemed to be playing for time, always depending on the Arabs to be the ones to spoil any progress towards such a goal. But now we see that he is no longer waiting for the Arabs, but is rather proposing on his own to give up land and Jewish communities. This is not just a reward for terrorism; there are no words to describe this folly in giving such an outright prize to terrorism."

Hisdai's speech contained some criticism of party policy in general:
"The Likud has turned its back on the underprivileged classes in the development town, threw out the hareidim who were our loyal partners, and is now preparing to abandon the people of Yesha. With what will we come to the electorate in the next elections? With Geneva? The Likud refuses to fold!" The audience took this as a signal to begin chanting, "We won't fold!" - a reminder of the upcoming giant rally next Monday night sponsored by the Yesha Council under the theme, "The State of Israel Does Not Want to Fold!"

Mayor Eliezer told Arutz-7 that he realized that his speech was more successful than he expected, in that "it spoke also to the emotions. I was gratified to see that the Central Committee does not want to accept Sharon's disengagement plan [of unilateral withdrawal] and does not want to fold." He said that the Likud was not empowered to come to the electorate with the plan originally offered by Labor and its candidate Amram Mitzna: "The elections last year revolved around this issue: Mitzna's unilateral disengagement plan, or Sharon's demand that terrorism must first cease. We received 40 Knesset seats, and Mitzna only 19. So how can we now come and represent the plan that the public so soundly defeated?"

He said that he has mixed feelings after the convention:
"On the one hand, I am absolutely convinced that Sharon's plan does not have a majority in the Likud Committee. On the other hand, we have our work cut out of us, to work on public opinion and within the party to make sure that his plans do not come to fruition."
Arutz-7 - 7 Jan 04