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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
04TELAVIV2328 2004-04-22 15:03:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tel Aviv
Cable title:  

SHARON TELLS KNESSET NO USG ASSURANCES WITHOUT

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
					C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TEL AVIV 002328 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/22/2014
TAGS: PGOV PREL KWBG IS GAZA DISENGAGEMENT GOI INTERNAL ISRAELI PALESTINIAN AFFAIRS ISRAEL RELATIONS
SUBJECT: SHARON TELLS KNESSET NO USG ASSURANCES WITHOUT
DISENGAGEMENT

REF: A. TEL AVIV 2256


B. TEL AVIV 2250

C. TEL AVIV 2231

D. TEL AVIV 2206

Classified By: Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).



1. (C) With an April 21 poll showing only
44-percent-to-40-percent Likud majority support for his
disengagement plan, down from a week ago, an energized PM
Sharon told a special Knesset session on April 22 that USG
assurances on right of return and retention of settlements
are tied to fulfillment of the withdrawal and will be lost if
the plan is rejected. Sharon's strong statement indicates
that he is mobilizing to counter a well organized withdrawal
opposition movement and a lead that has shrunk from last
week's 57/37 percent and 54/37 percent poll support margins.
The so-far lethargic support of key Likud ministers for
disengagement, coupled with the all-out PR campaign of the
opposition, could be contributing to a closer gap in the
polls. With 10 days left before the referendum, Sharon will
undoubtedly mobilize further, graphically painting the
consequences of failure, to ensure a May 2 victory for his
plan. End summary.



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-
Ha'aretz Poll Could be Wake-Up Call for Sharon


--------------------------

-



2. (C) Speaking before a special Knesset plenary on April
22, PM Sharon asserted that without his disengagement plan,
Israel would lose all of the April 14 assurances that
President Bush made to PM Sharon in return for withdrawing
from Gaza and four West Bank settlements. Sharon spoke the
same day that Ha'aretz published April 21 poll results
showing that 44 percent of Likud members favor the PM's
disengagement plan in the May 2 referendum while 40 percent
said they oppose it. Those numbers shift to 47 percent and
40 percent, respectively, among those Likud members who say
they will actually vote. The results come only a week after
two other media polls showed 57/37 percent and 54/32 percent
support margins (ref C). Asked about the drop in poll
numbers over a single week, pollster Hannoch Smith told
poloff on April 22 that his company was commissioned to
conduct private polls for Likud and that, based on polls it
had conducted among Likud voters, the Ha'aretz poll "makes
sense." He noted that among the broader population, however,
the disengagement plan is supported two to one.



3. (C) Neither the USG assurances on Palestinian refugees or
Israeli retention of settlement blocs, nor initial statements
of support from FinMin Benyamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister
Silvan Shalom and Education Minister Limor Livnat -- none of
whom Sharon has yet to put on the campaign trail -- seem to
have yet added any Likud support. Observers say Likud voters
may question the motives of these ministers in supporting the
plan, concluding that Netanyahu, Shalom, and Livnat have
changed their positions not because they are convinced of the
plan's value, but for purely personal political reasons. FM
Shalom, for example, presumably would not want to give Sharon
reason to hand over his ministerial position to Labor leader
Peres in a cabinet reshuffle.



--------------------------


A Lonely Bandwagon


--------------------------





4. (C) Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who can only
muster a small support base among Likud voters, is the only
key Likud minister so far hitting the referendum campaign
trail -- literally. Olmert launched the pro-disengagement
campaign on April 21 when he boarded the "disengagement bus"
that will travel the country to rally Likud voters behind the
plan. Olmert reportedly complained that same day about being
the only Likud minister, out of nine others who support the
plan, to take an active role in the campaign, telling the
Jerusalem Post that "there's plenty of room on the bus and
you never know, at any point a minister could get on. I have
reserved places for each of them."



5. (C) Observers and partisans alike are spinning
developments and positions -- from rumors cited by political
consultant Yossi Olmert, D/PM Olmert's brother, that
Netanyahu, Livnat and Shalom may quietly be asking their
supporters to vote against the plan, to MK Omri Sharon's
threat that his father will resign if the disengagement
initiative fails in the referendum. (Note: Olmert dismissed
Omri's threat, noting that the PM would not resign in the
face of a referendum loss since the PM understands the
benefits derived from his status if indicted on bribery
charges.)



--------------------------


COMMENT


--------------------------





6. (C) Apart from D/PM Olmert's bus tour, a comforting
security-related endorsement by DefMin Mofaz, and Omri's
efforts, PM Sharon had not until today mounted an all-out
campaign to win the April 2 Likud referendum. With his
Knesset speech, he has now staked out for both Likud rank and
file -- and for the so-far demure Netanyahu, Livnat and
Shalom -- his claim to the great issues of the nation,
delivering the "great achievement... to prevent the flooding
of Israel with refugees, to preserve the large Israeli
settlement blocs under our eternal rule.... (and win) the
broad U.S. commitment to Israel's right to defend itself."
With polls as they are 10 days before the referendum and with
President Bush's assurances in his pocket, Sharon will
continue to paint the referendum vote as determining the fate
of the nation, and by doing so, seek to dragoon into the
active campaign ranks the supportive but still lethargic
Likud party leaders -- and their constituencies -- necessary
to win the day.



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KURTZER