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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
04TELAVIV2471
2004-04-30 12:00:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Tel Aviv
Cable title:  

GAZA DISENGAGEMENT: SHARON FACING DEFEAT UNLESS

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						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TEL AVIV 002471 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/30/2014
TAGS: PGOV PREL KWBG IS GAZA DISENGAGEMENT ISRAELI PALESTINIAN AFFAIRS GOI INTERNAL
SUBJECT: GAZA DISENGAGEMENT: SHARON FACING DEFEAT UNLESS
MAJOR -- UNEXPECTED -- TURNAROUND BEFORE SUNDAY

REF: TEL AVIV 2458

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

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TEL AVIV 002471

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/30/2014
TAGS: PGOV PREL KWBG IS GAZA DISENGAGEMENT ISRAELI PALESTINIAN AFFAIRS GOI INTERNAL
SUBJECT: GAZA DISENGAGEMENT: SHARON FACING DEFEAT UNLESS
MAJOR -- UNEXPECTED -- TURNAROUND BEFORE SUNDAY

REF: TEL AVIV 2458

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


1. (C) SUMMARY: All Israeli polls are showing defeat for
Prime Minister Sharon's disengagement plan at the hands of
Likud party members. With little time left to campaign, and
with the public's focus riveted on the Israeli basketball
team's Saturday night final game for the European
championship, Sharon has few available means of turning the
numbers around. Sharon's chief of staff Dov Weissglas told
the Ambassador April 30 that he attributes the plan's drop in
support primarily to Likud voter apathy and vowed that Sharon
has no intention of giving up even in the face of a
referendum defeat. Polling data point to strong support
among Likud members for Sharon personally, even by those who
will vote against disengagement. The smell of blood is in
the water for Sharon's rivals who may use this referendum to
try to send Sharon into retirement. If the plan is voted
down, Sharon has few options, none good. End summary.

--------------
Polls: Disengagement Plan Will Be Defeated
--------------


2. (C) Public and private polls conducted April 28 forecast
defeat for PM Sharon's disengagement plan by margins of 51/43
percent and 46/38 percent. With less than 48 hours until the
polls open, Sharon has few if any means of turning the vote
around. He has already deployed doomsday warnings about the
future of Likud, the economy and U.S. relations. The threat
of Sharon's resignation, voiced by his son, Omri, has not
swayed voters. Sharon's options are limited further by the
fact that Israel's basketball team will play in the European
Cup final game on Saturday night, meaning any last-minute
media blitz by Sharon will fall on deaf ears. Interior
Minister Avraham Poraz asked the Ambassador rhetorically
during the April 29 semifinal basketball match, in which
Israel beat Moscow in the presence of 10,000 cheering
Israelis, most likely mainly Likudniks, "Wouldn't it have

been smart if Arik (Sharon) had been here in the front row?"


3. (C) Dov Weissglas acknowledged to the Ambassador April 30
that: "We're clearly in a battle," and that "it is hard to
judge the outcome." He said the plan had elicited strong
support within Likud immediately after Sharon's April 14
meeting with the President, but since then supporters seemed
to have become apathetic. Weissglas conceded that the
opposition message, articulated by such disengagement foes as
right-wing National Union MK Zvi Hendel, that the U.S. would
walk away from its assurances had had a negative impact on
some Likud voters. The PM's strategy, therefore, according
to Weissglas, is to motivate apathetic but supportive voters
by focusing on the potential costs of defeat. Weissglas
stressed that even if the referendum fails, Sharon has no
intention of abandoning his fight for disengagement.

--------------
Sharon Weakened
--------------


4. (C) Absent an unexpected victory on Sunday, Sharon will
be a seriously weakened prime minister. Top Likud ministers
-- Netanyahu, Shalom and Livnat -- have mouthed hollow and
insincere support for his plan, refusing to campaign in
favor. We have heard reports that Netanyahu has quietly told
his camp not to support the plan. Sharon's rivals clearly
smell blood in the water, and may be plotting to use the
referendum not only to defeat Gaza disengagement but also to
send Sharon into retirement. Sharon retains the support of
his Shinui coalition partner, but Justice Minister Lapid has
made clear his unhappiness that Sharon put the coalition's
future into the hands of Likud's fractious voters.

--------------
Post-Vote Options
--------------


5. (C) If the plan is defeated, none of Sharon's options is
good:

-- Submit the plan to the Cabinet. Echoing Weissglas,
Sharon's political advisor Lior Horev told the press that
Sharon will continue to push for disengagement, regardless of
the results of the Likud referendum. The problem is that
defeat in the referendum could free Netanyahu, Shalom and
Livnat from their earlier promise of support; and thus a
Cabinet vote could also conceivably go against Sharon.

-- Submit the plan to a national referendum. This would
require legislation that would be hard to pass, as Likud
Knesset members would rightly see this as a repudiation of
the party's vote.

-- Modify the plan. This would allow Sharon to argue that
disengagement is alive, and could help him retain his seat;
but he would find it difficult to secure Likud agreement to
anything even remotely resembling the current, minimalist
plan.

-- Accept defeat, ditch the plan, and try to govern: This
would be unlike Sharon and probably not sustainable over
time, as his weakened political position would continuously
be exploited by rivals.

-- Resign. This would also be uncharacteristic, unless part
of a plan to make a dramatic comeback in new national
elections. Sharon publicly rejected this option several days
ago ("I am not even considering such a possibility or
thinking in such directions."). However, the polls show that
Likud party members continue to give him high marks for
leadership, even among those who will vote against
disengagement. These polling numbers could contain the seed
of a future Sharon political strategy.
********************************************* ********************
Visit Embassy Tel Aviv's Classified Website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/nea/telaviv

You can also access this site through the State Department's
Classified SIPRNET website.
********************************************* ********************
KURTZER