Israel cabinet OKs evacuation of settlements
Israel's Cabinet gave final approval Sunday to the government's planned pullout from the Gaza Strip and four West Bank settlements, an official said. Ministers voted 17-5 in favor of the plan, the government official said.
Earlier, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said at the beginning of Sunday's meeting that the decision to withdraw from those areas is difficult but essential.
The Israeli cabinet approved the evacuation, in accordance with the so-called "disengagement plan", after which Sharon and Defense Minister Saul Mofaz will sign the evacuation orders. The evacuation of about 9,000 settlers will begin in July and take two months, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told the ministers.
Another highly significant decision that the cabinet approved in the "Super Sunday" session is the new route for the "separation fence" in the West Bank, following changes ordered by Israel's High Court of Justice. Government sources described the decisions expected to be made Sunday as "historic."
"The government will discuss today and decide on the issue of evacuating settlements under the disengagement plan," Sharon said. "This is not an easy day, this is not a happy day."
Sharon said, "The evacuation of settlements in Gaza and northern Samaria (West Bank) is a process that is very difficult for the residents, difficult for the citizens of Israel, difficult for me, and I am sure it is also difficult for the members of the government."
"But this is an essential process for the future of the State of Israel," Sharon said.