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Ultranationalists Prop-up Crumbling Israeli Govt

Published: Thu 31 Oct 2002 08:56 AM
Ultranationalists Prop-up Crumbling Israeli Govt
By Selwyn Manning – Scoop Deputy Editor
Israel’s government collapsed overnight after Labor Party ministers in the Ariel Sharon Cabinet resigned over funding of Jewish settlements.
But Sharon will continue to govern Israel in a minority coalition government of rightwing and religious parties, including pro-settler ultranationalists who have been in opposition. He is ruling out an early election.
The Israeli Labor Party walked out overnight, taking its 25 members into opposition, leaving Sharon with 55 votes in a 120 vote parliament.
Israel’s Cabinet is now leaning extreme right, sparking further fears Sharon will advance his hardline measures against Palestinians, unabatedly.
A clash between the Israeli Cabinet drove wider overnight after Labor Party leader Binyamin Ben-Eliezer has been quoted as saying: "We must fight terror, but this is the day when we have to present a diplomatic horizon. The prime minister is unable to present a diplomatic horizon."
The clash was all about Sharon directing funds to Jewish settlements in Palestinian territories. Ben-Eliezer insisted a portion of those funds be directed toward social programmes for the elderly and poor inside Israel.
Labor had vowed to vote against the budget and leave the right-wing leader's government unless a portion of funding for Jewish settlements was diverted to the poor, the elderly and others in need.
Sharon refused.
Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, unable to broker a resolution between clashing factions, joined Ben-Eliezer and resigned.
Sharon’s leadership is also under siege from within, with former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu mounting support for a leadership challenge.
In the United States White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said: "The United States views the events in Israel as part of Israel's internal democratic process and we have no comment beyond that."
Selwyn Manning - Scoop Auckland
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