Minister of Industry and Trade Eli Yishai said this week that the party he represents, Shas, will not be able to remain in the coalition if the government promotes further Israeli withdrawals from Judea and Samaria.
In an interview published in a Shas party publication, Minister Yishai said, "We have seen how Gaza, which we left, became a missile base. We cannot allow such a base in the
Minister Yishai added that he doesn't think coalition partner Yisrael Beiteinu will be able to remain.
middle of the country."
Plans for withdrawal from most or all of Judea and Samaria have reportedly been under discussion at meetings between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. The plans, published in the media but not confirmed or denied, include withdrawal to Israel's pre-1967 border and Arab control over parts of Jerusalem. Abbas and Olmert have been meeting every few weeks to work out details of collaboration and coordination ahead of a multinational Middle East summit in November, which is being organized by the United States.
In July, newly-installed President Shimon Peres quietly promoted a draft plan for the Jewish State to evacuate and transfer to the PA nearly the entire area of Judea and Samaria, along with several Arab-Israeli cities located within pre-1967 Israel. Peres presented his initiative to Prime Minister Olmert and to top Abbas aides soon after he took office as President. Prime Minister Olmert was said to be considering the plan and "agrees with much of its contents," diplomatic sources said.
In the Shas newspaper interview, Minister Yishai added that he doesn't think coalition partner Yisrael Beiteinu will be able to remain in the government either if Prime Minister Olmert presents the nation with a withdrawal scheme such as that attributed to him in the media.
The Prime Minister is already facing challenges to his diplomatic moves in the counter-terrorism arena from Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu.
On Monday, ministers from Shas said they would vote against a planned mass release of terrorist prisoners. According to a spokeswoman for the Prime Minister, Miri Eisin, Olmert offered to release certain PA prisoners during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins on Wednesday.
Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beiteinu) said that he and fellow Yisrael Beiteinu Minister Yitzchak Aharonovitch would oppose the measure. "It's time... for the Palestinians to make gestures," Lieberman said, "and arrest wanted terrorists, confiscate weapons, and stop their violence."