Minister of Diaspora and Jerusalem Affairs submits his resignation to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon; Sharansky, known as a staunch opponent of upcoming pullout, is first minister to resign over the plan
By Attila Somfalvi
JERUSALEM - Minister of Diaspora and Jerusalem Affairs Natan Sharansky submitted his resignation to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon Monday morning.
Sharansky's resignation follows his objection to the upcoming Gaza Strip and northern West Bank pullout. The minister submitted his resignation letter to the Prime Minister's Office as Sharon himself was on his way there.
Sharansky apparently informed the prime minister of his intention to quit in a meeting during the Pesach holiday. However, no resignation date was provided at the time.
The resigning minister says he believes in the need for democratic reforms in the Palestinian Authority in the framework of the peace process, but added the disengagement plan is not part of the required approach.
First minister to resign over pullout
Notably, Sharansky was the last Likud minister objecting to the pullout plan to remain in the government, after other Likud ministers and deputy ministers opposed to the disengagement were fired.
Still, Sharansky remained a staunch opponent of the plan and invested great efforts to act against it. However, Sharon was not quick to fire him, partly as a result of American President George W. Bush's high opinion of Sharansky.
In addition, Sharansky apparently did not constitute a serious enough political threat on Sharon to prompt his dismissal.
Monday's resignation marks the first time a government minister quits the government out of his own accord in protest of the disengagement plan.
Right â€“ wing Knesset Member Effie Eitam (Hitchabrut) said in response to Sharansky's resignation â€œHis resignation constitutes a major moral victory for the anti-disengagement camp.â€
â€œSharansky has become a global symbol in the struggle for human rights, human liberty and the advancement of democracy,â€ he said.
But politicians on the left did not view Sharansky's move in the same light.
Knesset Member Roman Bronfman (Yachad) said â€œHis resignation constitutes his and his partyâ€™s ideological and political bankruptcy.â€
â€œA human rights activist under the Soviet regime has turned here into a fighter for the occupation. Sharansky, who was elected by the new immigrantsâ€™ votes, in fact never represented their interests, but rather represented the interests of the settlers and their life work,â€ he said.