Israel Cabinet rejects Gaza delay03/07/2005 - 14:51:29
Israel’s Cabinet today voted down a proposal to delay the summer’s Gaza Strip withdrawal by six months, while the first settler families voluntarily moved out of their Gaza and West Bank homes.
In the Cabinet meeting, ministers voted 18-3 to reject a proposal to delay the withdrawal from Gaza and four West Bank settlements by six month.
The delay was proposed by Agriculture Minister Israel Katz, a hardliner opposed to the withdrawal.
The Cabinet vote means the forced evacuation of settlers in Gaza and four West Bank settlements will begin in mid-August, as planned.
The Cabinet’s wrangling over the Gaza pullout highlighted the bitter rivalry between Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a former prime minister.
Netanyahu voted in favour of the delay, a direct challenge to Sharon. Netanyahu also plans to be absent from a parliamentary vote on Wednesday on the same issue, and Sharon has threatened to fire him.
At least eight settler families, meanwhile, have moved out of their homes in recent days, including two in Gaza and six in the West Bank. If growing numbers of families leave voluntarily before the government’s deadline, withdrawal opponents could be weakened considerably.
The departures coincided with the start of summer vacation in Israeli schools at the end of June.
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