The Likud party of Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon and the Labour opposition are still haggling over power-sharing in a coalition government. A deal is crucial for Sharon’s plan to withdraw 8,000 Jewish settlers, and troops protecting them, from the occupied Gaza Strip.
It could also help Sharon avoid a snap election. He lost his parliamentary majority when he fired cabinet members from the Shinui party who voted against the budget. Labour has threatened to delay entry into the coalition unless its leader Shimon Peres is appointed second deputy premier at the same time the party’s eight new ministers are sworn in. The constitution allows for a single deputy. The post is currently held by Likud’s Ehud Olmert and he is refusing to budge, claiming he has the backing of Sharon. Fearing a Likud-Labour coalition is a foregone conclusion, a major organisation representing Jewish settlers yesterday repeated threats to resist a Gaza evacuation. The Yesha Council urged its supporters to engage in non-violent civil disobedience.