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Netanyahu submits resignation over Gaza withdrawal

August 07, 2005 20:36 IST
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Israeli Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu resigned on Sunday to protest the planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and part of the West Bank, but the dramatic step was unlikely to scuttle next week's pullout.

Netanyahu submitted his letter of resignation during the weekly Cabinet session, just before his government colleagues voted 17-5 to give approval to the first stage of the pullout, the dismantling of three isolated Gaza settlement.

In all, 21 settlements in Gaza and 4 in the West Bank are to be removed by September.

Netanyahu, a former prime minister and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's biggest political rival in the ruling Likud Party, had been zigzagging over the past few months--  helping approve the pullout in several Cabinet votes, but also trying to torpedo it in a last-minute parliamentary maneuver earlier this year.

Netanyahu wrote on Sunday that he resigned because he cannot be part of what he described as a 'process that ignores reality and proceeds blindly, creating a base for Islamic terror that will threaten the state.'

In all, Israel is to remove some 9,000 settlers from their homes as part of the pullout from Gaza and parts of the West Bank.
Under Israeli law, the resignation takes effect within 48 hours. The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange's Maof index dropped 2.5 percent in six minutes following news of the resignation.

Netanyahu had led efforts to streamline the Israeli economy, often adopting harsh measures in implementing his austerity plan.The finance minister is expected to challenge Sharon for leadership of the ruling Likud Party ahead of the next election.

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