The Israeli parliament on Monday put aside another potential obstacle to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip, overwhelmingly rejecting a proposal for holding a national referendum on the proposed pullout. All in all, legislators voted 72-39 to reject the referendum proposal.
According to The AP, approval of a referendum could have brought down Sharon's government and forced new elections.
Meanwhile, Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei, sharply criticized the United States after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reiterated support for Israel's plans to keep major Jewish settlement blocs in the West Bank. "This (U.S.) policy is completely incomprehensible," Qurei told reporters Monday.
Israeli officials last week confirmed plans to build 3,500 homes in the Maaleh Adumim settlement, the West Bank's largest, near Jerusalem.
"The American view is that while we will not prejudice the outcome of final status negotiations, the changes on the ground, the existing major Israeli population centers, will have to be taken into account in any final status negotiations," Rice told Israel Radio.