Talk about leaving it late, Bibi has quit the government in the last hour in response to what he sees as Israel's surrender to terror and giving of land without reciprocal security. Four other senior Likud ministers have also raised their hands against the Cabinet's vote for implementation of the first stage of Disengagement.
Well, in a sign of his importance and influence, the TA Stock exchange is plummeting and no doubt this will send jitters through the entire political system. While this will almost certainly not block Disengagement (which has, nonetheless, been passed 17-5 in the Cabinet today), these five hands may well spell out the beginning of the end for Ariel Sharon who now appears to lack much support in his own Likud party for his policies and Disengagement. (The 'for' votes came mostly from the Labor party).
No one changes their mind more than an Israeli MK and none more than the former (resurrected future?) Prince of the Likud. He has swayed backwards and forwards on this issue for months and only recently said he would not leave his Finance Portfolio to which he attached so much importance. Many agree that he has done a reasonable job in jumpstarting the ecomomy again after some tough Intifada years. I think he thought he was doing a good job too.
Now we know where he stands. After months of pressure from the right-wing, he has nervously but clearly jumped from his (un)comfortable position on the fence. His reasons, (that we'll hear more about at 6pm in a Netanyahu press conference), seem to be based upon the environment that currently surrounds Disengagement rather than land for peace in general. He was of course the man to give over parts of Hebron to the Palestinian Authority.
Bibi says that he's concerned about the split that is being caused in the nation, the joyous, celebratory attitude of the terror groups and the Islamic base for terror that will be created. In addition, he criticizes the rejection of the voters policy choices at the last election. Maybe it was today's terror attack near Jerusalem after checkpoints were removed, that was the straw that broke the Bibi back.
When all is said or done at 6pm, Bibi will (or should!) know that he has gone for double or nothing. Sharon has won elections easily because of the center's perception of him as a strong but brave leader who would fight terror but compromise where needed.
Netanyahu's decision today may paint him in the opposite light and damage his ability to present himself as a moderate but strong leader - seeing as the majority (even if small) do still back Disengagement.
But Israel is a funny place, and there are more than just "50000 fanatics against all of Israel", contrary to Yoel Marcus' article. In fact, many (and that can't be just 250000 settlers) stand against this policy. And then there are those who currently wear blue and do so with a heavy heart and will not wear blue when it comes to Jerusalem and large West Bank settlement blocs. Gaza was always a different kettle of fish for many Israelis.
Bibi (and the other four 'against' voters) must be hoping that the minority today, become the majority tomorrow. There's every chance they will if the PA Territories are further transformed into a terror fun park following August 15th.
Leave your comment on Bibi bailing and the effects of this move...