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Tuesday, 21 May, 2002, 20:25 GMT 21:25 UK
Press split on Israeli sackings
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Knesset
Has Mr Sharon's government run out of time?

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has been both praised and attacked in the Israeli press for his decision to sack a number of cabinet ministers after they voted against an emergency finance bill.

The major Hebrew-language daily Ma'ariv called the sackings "Sharon's Moment of Truth".

"For the second time in less than 10 days Sharon made a statesmanlike decision.

"He sent a clear message to his Shas partners, who had dared torpedo the economic plan that is vital to save the Israeli economy."

Courage

"It was a courageous step, not devoid of risks. It might lead to the collapse of the coalition and to early elections."


For a few hours at least he showed he had balls

Shalom Yerushalmi

"Sharon has no way back," Ma'ariv warned. "Firing the ultra-Orthodox politicians is not enough. Sharon himself must plunge into the cold water of politics and take a lead in extricating the economy from the threats hanging over it."

Writing in Ma'ariv, commentator Shalom Yerushalmi said the prime minister "behaved last night like a midnight cowboy".

"For a few hours at least he showed he had balls, given the grave significance of his decision, both politically and economically.

"Sharon is back to relying on the rickety crutch known as the Labour Party, a coalition partner that gave him only half its votes yesterday," Mr Yerushalmi said.

Disgrace

The largest Hebrew-language daily, Yediot Aharonot, attacked both the government and the recalcitrant Shas party.

"The government's bitter failure (and disgrace) to pass its plan for reducing the budgetary deficit further worsens Israel's dismal economy and poses an immeasurable threat to the economic future of each and every citizen of this country."


Arafat could drown Sharon's election campaign in blood

Yediot Aharonot

The daily said the governing coalition "is incapable of uniting for anything except to wage war against Arafat".

Yediot Aharonot accused Shas of "licentious behaviour".

"It's inconceivable that sectoral interests, blindness, and anarchy should win and that the entire economy should lose."

Another commentary in the daily warned that if Mr Sharon was forced to call an election, "Arafat could drown Sharon's election campaign in blood"

"Last night's vote proved in a very cruel way that the political system in Israel is bankrupt. A government that supposedly enjoys the support of 80 MKs [Member of Knesset] was unable to muster a majority for the first reading of the budget."

" The reason for it is that the concept 'we' has disappeared from the Knesset's agenda, leaving behind 120 MKs who only know the word 'me.'"

Mistake

The ultra-Orthodox Hamodia newspaper accused Mr Sharon of making a "terrible mistake".


History will yet prove that he made a terrible mistake.

Hamodia

An editorial in the daily linked to the United Torah Judaism party said both that party and Shas had given Likud the necessary support over the past two decades to allow it to rule.

"Instead of pausing for a moment and considering the attitude toward his political partners, considerations of prestige momentarily overcame highfalutin declarations about the need for 'all-out unity' at this difficult time."

"In the short and long term, history will yet prove that he made a terrible mistake," Hamodia added.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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21 May 02 | Middle East
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