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Last Updated: Sunday, 6 June, 2004, 12:20 GMT 13:20 UK
Press trepidation over Gaza vote
Israeli press graphic

Leading newspapers in Israel reflect the tensions in the country over Sunday's planned cabinet vote on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan for a unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

One commentator describes the pullout plan as "this most painful of issues" and there are warnings that similar proposals have cost the careers of former leaders, and in the case of Yitzhak Rabin, his life.

A historic day

The point is also made that despite any cabinet approval, the plan still needs to pass through parliament.

"A fateful day", proclaims one headline in the top circulation daily Yediot Aharonot. Another headline describes the importance of the vote for the Israeli premier as "The battle of his life".

A Ma'ariv headline points to "A historic day".

Not all over bar the shouting

An editorial in Ha'aretz argues "after the prime minister gains a majority in his cabinet for the plan, he will have to focus his efforts on rallying a majority in the Knesset", the Israeli parliament.

Echoing this point is Herb Keinon in The Jerusalem Post.

"A victory in the cabinet today does not provide assurances that more than half of his Likud MPs will vote for his plan in the Knesset.

"And without that support... Sharon will have a tough time keeping his commitments to dismantle authorised settlements... Not because he lacks the will, but because he lacks the ability."

The problem of problems for the people of Israel
Commentator in Ma'ariv

An editorial in Yediot Aharonot believes that despite the rhetoric, the determining factor will be if "Sharon removes any flower from any settlement" in the Gaza Strip. The editorial suggests it will be a long time before the last Israeli bids farewell to the Strip.

A commentator writing in Yediot is unclear whether Mr Sharon will row back on his decision to sack two pro-settler ministers or "go to the end in the same combative mode, with the same determination to gamble and endanger what we have in order to make every effort to advance his political plan".

Fraught with difficulties

Ben Kaspit, writing in Ma'ariv, describes the issue as "the problem of problems for the people of Israel".

"This most painful of issues, the most difficult: dividing the land between the Palestinians and us. Almost all Israel's leaders of the last generation fell because of this issue. One of them was murdered."

"Today, barring any last minute hitches , the government headed by the Likud will vote on the full dramatic exodus from the Gaza Strip. Who would have believed this a year ago?," concludes Mr Kaspit.

Today's cabinet session is historic
Commentator in Ha'aretz

Shalom Yerushalmi, writing in Ma'ariv, believes that Mr Sharon's days could be numbered.

"History proves that a prime minister who dismantles his natural coalition, does not last long. Sharon's position is even graver than his predecessors."

"If he achieves a compromise, and even if he doesn't , Likud itself is not backing him."

In Ha'aretz, Yossi Verter believes: "Today's cabinet session is historic."

"The disengagement plan will be approved, and even if the settlements are not evacuated by the end of 2005 - because Sharon doesn't want to or isn't able to, or because of elections - it will be written in the cabinet chronicles and nobody will be able to ignore it."

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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