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Likud Ministers Hear Of Disengagement Plan

Prime Minister Sharon formally discussed his disengagement plan - a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and expulsion of nearly 8,000 Jewish residents from their homes of 30 years - with the Likud ministers today, for the first time. Most of them object to the plan.
First Publish: 3/21/2004, 4:56 PM / Last Update: 3/21/2004, 11:21 AM

For the first time, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon formally discussed his disengagement plan - under which he wishes to unilaterally withdraw from the Gaza Strip and expel its nearly 8,000 Jewish residents from their homes of 30 years - with the Likud Party ministers. This morning's meeting did not include detailed plans of the withdrawal, but rather a general outline delivered by Sharon.

Most Likud Ministers do not support the withdrawal in its current format. Five are reported to be definitely in favor, and at least seven are opposed. Those in favor are Sharon, Mofaz, Livni, Ezra and Olmert, while those opposed are Landau, Katz, HaNegbi, Sharansky and Naveh. The remainder - Netanyahu, Livnat, Sheetrit and Shalom - have expressed opposition to the plan, but the question is how strongly. Netanyahu's position is widely considered to be crucial in determining the stance of several other ministers. Sharon, for his part, must reduce the number of Likud objectors to seven, which, together with the five Shinui ministers, will guarantee him a majority of the 23 Cabinet ministers. The four National Union and NRP ministers are against the plan.

Among those in attendance at today's meeting were also Likud MK Gideon Saar, Deputy Ministers Ze'ev Boim and Yaakov Edry, National Security Advisor Gen. Giora Eiland and Shabak head Avi Dichter.

Ministerial comments before the meeting:
Uzi Landau: "This disengagement plan has no advantage for Israel at all - only dangers."
Yisrael Katz: "Most Likud ministers are against it."
Natan Sharansky: "I am not confident that the majority against the plan will last..."
Ehud Olmert: "Any plan that Sharon brings will receive a majority in the government."