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Sharon Says Tough Decisions Lie Ahead - 2004-05-03

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says tough decisions lie ahead for the country's future and he warns lawmakers from his rightwing Likud party they cannot shy away from them. On Sunday Likud members rejected Mr. Sharon's proposal to disengage from some Palestinian areas.

Mr. Sharon addressed Likud lawmakers at the opening of the summer session of parliament, the Knesset.

Mr. Sharon predicted the legislative session would not be easy and that it would be full of tough decisions to be made about the future that would affect everyone.

The reference was clear. Just a day earlier, Likud members had handed him a resounding defeat by turning down his disengagement plan by a 60-40 margin. The prime minister had warned that a vote against the plan was a vote against him. Nevertheless, he said after the results were announced that he has no intention of resigning.

Mr. Sharon has proposed dismantling all Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip along with four small settlements in the West Bank. He said the move was vital for Israel's security and had to be done because of the lack of prospects for peace with the Palestinians.

Even though his plan gained approval in Washington, it was vehemently opposed by Jewish settlers and rightwing groups who organized an effective grassroots campaign against it.

But opinion polls show that a majority of Israelis across the political spectrum supports the disengagement plan.

Mr. Sharon warned Likud lawmakers they had a duty to all Israelis.

The people of Israel chose us to find a way to bring quiet, peace and security and to improve the economy he said, adding, I intend to do that. There is no other reason for us to be here in the Knesset.

Mr. Sharon has not said what action he might take following Sunday's Likud vote, but his supporters point out that the ballot was not binding and they suggest Mr. Sharon is not ready to not abandon his disengagement plan.