Itzik: PM will turn back to the Right after pullout

By David Horovitz July 21, 2005

Communications Minister Dalia Itzik believes that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will swing back to the Right after the Gaza pullout, to try and recapture his erstwhile natural supporters and ensure that he is the Likud Party’s candidate for prime minister in the next elections.

Itzik, in an interview with The Jerusalem Post, said that while Sharon’s initial intention with disengagement was to also dismantle 16 settlements in the West Bank, he would likely declare, in the immediate aftermath of the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and four settlements in northern Samaria, that no more settlements were to be evacuated.

‘He will speak to the Right, he’ll head Right… he will want to bring home the hard-liners,’ she said. ‘He will want to recapture the Likud.’

For Labor in the next elections, Itzik added, Sharon would be a very tough opponent.

‘To a certain extent, Sharon is the hardest political rival for us,’ she said. ‘He’s taken the agenda away from us. He’s taken the center, and the Labor Party, in its stupidity, didn’t know how to capture the center.’

Still, she said, if Sharon were the Likud’s prime ministerial candidate next time, this might help Shimon Peres, since the Likud could hardly make Peres’s age an issue.

‘Let’s put this gently,’ she said. ‘It would be a little absurd if a man of 78 or 79 [Sharon] were to attack somebody of 81 or 82 [Peres].’ Hence, she said, so long as Sharon was leading the Likud, Labor need not urgently elect a new leader. Peres, she said, could ‘absolutely’ yet be elected prime minister.

Itzik was speaking ahead of a visit next week to the US and Canada – a trip partly related to her ministerial work and partly designed to enable her to speak to North American Jews about disengagement.

‘There is a feeling that we are going to see some very difficult scenes [during the pullout],’ she said, and there might be a sense abroad ‘that all of Israel is like this [resisting withdrawal], or all the settlers are like this. And that’s not the case. There is an extreme minority that doesn’t accept the law and the majority of settlers who do accept that this is going to happen, even though it is very very hard for them.’

Itzik said she felt obligated to convey the sympathy and empathy of the Left for the settlers who were being uprooted.

‘All Israeli governments, after all, sent these people there,’ she said.

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