Many Anglo-Likudniks staying loyal

When long-time Likud voter Wendy Rimon heard that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon would be leaving the party, she felt relieved. "I'm bitterly disappointed with Sharon's performance as prime minister," said the 50-year-old psychology teacher who immigrated from the US in 1973. "His leaving the Likud will only enable us to be more faithful to the Likud's platform." But just a few meters away, her husband, who also made aliya from the US in the 1970s, disagreed. He was much more troubled by Sharon's departure. "I'm very sorry that the prime minister decided to leave the party," said Jonathan Rimon, a Likud Central Committee member and the former mayor of Kochav Yair. "He should have fought for his beliefs inside the party itself." "I love Ariel Sharon and I still have enormous respect for him," Rimon added. "He's just done some things that I don't agree with, especially his leaving the Likud." Like most committed Anglo-Likudniks interviewed by The Jerusalem Post, Rimon is unlikely to follow Sharon to his new party. But Stanley Lipschitz, who supported Menachem Begin soon after he arrived from South Africa but then chose centrist parties before backing Sharon, said "wherever and whatever Sharon does this time, I'm voting for him." Lipschitz praised Sharon's ditching the Likud Party, saying, "He's getting rid of all the rebels and people like that and he'll have a free hand to do what he needs to do." Sonia Natan, a 70-year-old Jerusalemite originally from England, saw the benefit going exactly the other way. "We're satisfied by the fact that Sharon is leaving the Likud with some of his supporters because we were angry with his pullout from Gaza," she said. "We hope and pray that the new leader will be different." Some Likud voters wanted to wait until the new party head was chosen before pledging their continued support to the party, but not the Milgrams. The American-born couple were considering not voting for the Likud for the first time in two decades. Now they could stay with their party, they said. "Since he wasn't sticking to the ideology of the Likud and what he has always stood for, I'm glad to see him go," Roberta Milgram said. "I hope that [the Likud] is going to pull together and show Sharon that the Likud is going to survive and prosper without him." Now that Sharon's off the Likud ticket, she said she would vote for the party. "I'll vote for Arafat before I'll vote for Sharon," she added.