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Cabinet Gives Green Light To Gaza Withdrawal

Settler Leaders: ‘We Are Not Giving Up; The Campaign Is Also To Forestall Future Withdrawals From Judea and Samaria’

Cabinet Approves New Route For Security Fence, Which Now Includes 7% of Palestinian Territory

The Israeli Cabinet has voted in favor of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and 4 West Bank settlements. The evacuation is slated to begin on July 20th. Finance Minister Bibi Netanyahu, Sharon’s chief rival in the ruling Likud Party, lead 4 other ministers in voting against the disengagement because it did not include a national referendum on the controversial issue. Previously, the cabinet voted for the withdrawal in principle; today the cabinet decided to implement. Last week, the Knesset also voted for the withdrawal plan and the 1$ billion compensation package. Reacting to the cabinet vote, settler leaders declared they would step up their campaign to block the withdrawal.

:: IsraCast Audio ::
Historic Vote

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon now has the cabinet seal of approval for the controversial withdrawal, which some warn could spark a civil war. Settler leaders vow to step up their campaign because Judea And Samaria will also be at stake.

Barring unforeseen circumstances, the approval by both the Knesset and cabinet, gives the green light for the withdrawal to start on July 20th. At today’s cabinet session, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said the evacuation was painful for him and other cabinet minister; but it was in the national interest. Finance Minister Bibi Netanyahu and 4 other ministers disagreed and voted against. Their reason was that Sharon should have at least agreed to hold a national referendum on the issue.

Sharon has agreed that the cabinet will hear assessment reports before it votes again on withdrawing from the 4 groups of settlements this summer. But if Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas continues to preserve the quiet, those votes will be a mere formality.

As for unforeseen circumstances - the disengagement now depends on both Sharon and Abbas. If either were to become incapacitated, the withdrawal could come to a halt. There is strong opposition in Sharon’s own Likud party to the pullout; a party referendum opposed it. Only the bulldozer tactics of Sharon have prevailed; without Sharon at the helm, the whole process would start unraveling.

But not only Sharon, if Abbas was taken out by a car bomb like the one that murdered Rafik Hariri in Beirut, the Palestinian terrorists would most likely go back on the warpath.

Moreover, if Hamas and other terror groups returned to an all out wave of terrorism during the evacuation, Sharon has declared: ‘There will be no disengagement under fire and Israel would respond more severely than ever!’Then there’s the ‘Temple Mount’ syndrome, an attack by Jewish terrorists (or Palestinian provocateurs, for that matter) on the Muslim holy sites there. This could spark an unthinkable nightmare by the Muslim world.

Back in the cabinet, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom reversed, with ‘a heavy heart’, his previous opposition to the withdrawal. Shalom declared that it was essential to exploit the opportunity now that Abbas was in charge. Ehud Olmert, another leading Likud minister, blasted the threats against Sharon charging they were calling for ‘the spilling of blood’. Labor party leader Shimon Peres told the cabinet that it was not clear what Israel had gained from the years of Gaza settlement, but it was clear what she had lost.

Pinchas Wallerstein

Settler leaders reacted with dismay to the cabinet outcome. They charged it was the start of a drive to eliminate Jewish settlement not only in Gaza, but also in Judea and Samaria. Jewish residents were being ‘expelled’ from their homes in the Land of Israel. Pinchas Wallerstein, the head of the Binyamin council, declared the ‘most forceful but non-violent campaign’ would be launched to block the ‘transfer’ of Jews. And he added, it was clear the battle was not over Gaza and 4 settlements in northern Samaria, but for all of Judea and Samaria.In another development, the cabinet approved the new route for the security fence to keep suicide bombers from penetrating Israel from the West Bank. The building of the fence has been delayed for months due to a ruling by Israel’s supreme court. It ruled that Israel was entitled to build the fence for protection but the original route did not take the rights of Palestinian residents into enough consideration. The new route will include 7% of Palestinian territory as well as several thousand Palestinians who will be stranded on the Israeli side. Prime Minister Sharon has declared the fence is a security barrier and not a border. It was made necessary by the wave of Palestinian suicide bombers and terrorists who murdered over 1,000 Israelis and wounded more than 7,000 others during the Palestinian uprising. Although only one-third of the fence has been completed, it has proved highly effective in preventing the suicide bombers from getting through. There is no question, that if Sharon had agreed to start building the fence earlier, hundreds of Israeli lives would have been saved and thousands more would not have been maimed.

David Essing

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