Israel's Knesset voted to approve Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to unilaterally disengage from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank. The vote was 67 in favor, 45 against, with 7 abstentions and one member absent.
Education Minister Limor Livnat and Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu initially threatened to abstain, but voted in favor of the withdrawal along with Ministers Silvan Shalom and Tzachi Hanegbi. Altogether 23 Likud MKs voted in favor of the plan, while 17 voted against it. A total of 21 Labor and One Nation MKs voted in favor, as did 14 Shinui MKs, six Yahad MKs, two United Arab List members and one National Union MK (Michael Nuddelman).
All eleven Shas MKs voted against the plan, on the orders of the party's spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, as did six National Religious Party members, six National Union MKs and five United Torah Judaism Mks. Three Hadash MKs and three Balad MKs abstained, as did one One Nation MK.
Social Affairs Minister Zevulun Orlev (NRP) said afterward that his party will quit the government within fourteen days if Prime Minister Ariel Sharon does not agree to hold a national referendum on unilateral disengagement. Meanwhile, Israel Radio reported that Sharon will dismiss Minister -Without – Portfolio Uzi Landau and deputy Industry and Trade Minister Michael Ratzon for voting against disengagement. Sharon had said earlier he wouldl fire any minister who voted against the plan.
The plan submitted to the Knesset is the exact version approved by the cabinet on June 6, which states explicitly in its first clause that the approval of the plan by the government was “not a decision to evacuate settlements.” For the evacuation to be carried out, the cabinet must meet again to decide on which settlements to evacuate and when.
The Knesset must also approve the disengagement plan implementation legislation in three readings. The bill being drafted by the government determines compensation and evacuation procedures. Under the bill, which is to be brought for a first reading on November 1, 2004, settlers who leave the Gaza Strip and relocate to the Galilee or Negev will get a $30,000 bonus.