Sharon Fires Two Who Oppose Gaza Plan
Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, a Likud leader and former prime minister, opposes it on the grounds that the party has rejected it, said an aide. Netanyahu's goal is to abide by the Likud members' decision, not "to topple Sharon or to form a different government," the aide said.
But that "could be the outcome," he said.
"There are so many open possibilities, it's hard to predict what will happen," said Deputy Prime Minister Yosef Lapid, a member of the Shinui party who supports withdrawal from Gaza.
Lapid and other members of Sharon's cabinet expressed relief at the dismissal of two of the most right-wing members of the government.
"We shouldn't sit with these kinds of people anyway," Lapid said, noting that Elon and Lieberman are proponents of deporting Palestinians from East Jerusalem and the West Bank and Gaza. Lapid said he hoped a centrist base could be formed in a coalition of Likud, Shinui and Labor.
A messenger spent Friday morning chasing the two ministers, who were trying to avoid receiving the notices of their dismissal, which would take effect only 48 hours after receipt. They hoped that this hide-and-seek would allow them to vote in the cabinet meeting Sunday morning. Lieberman was finally handed his notice while on a treadmill at a gym, said his spokesman, Shai Rosenfeld. Elon had not yet received the message by Friday evening, an aide said.
Lieberman told Israel Radio he was "proud" to have been fired for standing up for his beliefs. "I joined this coalition on the basis of principles which we agreed to," he said. "There is no connection between these principles and the disengagement plan."
Researcher Samuel Sockol contributed to this report.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
Israeli Tourism Minister Benny Elon, shown here at a press conference in April, has remained elusive since learning that he was to be fired by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Friday. The dismissals take effect 48 hours after they have been received in person.
(AP File Photo)