Sharon's disengagement plan to continue despite party opposition

Jerusalem (AsiaNews/Agencies) – "There are times in the life of a nation when it must make difficult decisions [like withdrawing from Gaza and pursuing the road map]," Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said. "And I intend to continue with plans to establish a stable government," he added after being rebuked by his own Likud party in yesterday's central committee vote on his proposal to form a national unity government with opposition Labour.

Although Sharon insisted the vote was non-binding, it could jeopardise his plan to disengage from Gaza before the end of next year.

Forming a national unity government with Labour would have given him a more secure majority in the Knesset and allowed him to go through with his plan to pull out unilaterally from the Gaza strip and four West Bank settlements.

Yesterday's resolution was defeated by a 60% majority. Likud's hardliners are afraid that an alliance with Labour might lead to further concessions to Palestinians.

This is the second time that the party disowns the prime minister. In May an internal non-binding party-wide referendum also rejected the Gaza plan by a 60-40 margin.  (DS)