Israel's prime minister, Ariel Sharon, says he will present an alternative plan for unilateral disengagement from Palestinian areas to his cabinet within three weeks. Mr. Sharon also says he is canceling a trip to Washington this month to consider new proposals, after his Likud party voted against the original plan.
Mr. Sharon convened his cabinet ministers to discuss how the government should proceed after his unilateral disengagement plan was overwhelmingly rejected by a referendum of the Likud party one-week ago.
The prime minister said he intended to meet in the next few days with all members of the cabinet to help formulate alternative proposals.
He said these discussions would be aimed at drawing up a new diplomatic initiative, to be presented to the government within three weeks.
Mr. Sharon is under pressure from right-wing cabinet ministers opposed to his vision of withdrawing soldiers and removing Jewish settlements from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank.
At the same time, the prime minister is facing demands from other factions to press ahead with his plan.
The secular Shinui party, led by Justice Minister Tommy Lapid, is threatening to withdraw from the coalition if diplomatic progress with the Palestinians remains stalled.
Two right-wing government ministers stormed out of the cabinet meeting after Mr. Lapid spoke in favor of Israel's withdrawing from the Gaza Strip.
But Mr. Sharon insisted he wanted more debate on the idea of unilateral disengagement.
He also told the cabinet he was calling off a planned trip to Washington next week because he would be busy consulting on the idea with government ministers.
Mr. Sharon was to have addressed the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying group, and a meeting with President Bush had been under consideration.
Israel's deputy prime minister, Ehud Olmert, a staunch supporter of the disengagement plan, has been chosen to represent Mr. Sharon at the Washington conference.