The Israeli Cabinet has approved in principle Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's modified disengagement plan from Palestinian areas. Mr. Sharon won the backing of the cabinet by a large majority by agreeing to remove any specific references to the evacuation of Jewish settlements.
After a day of legal and political wrangling, Mr. Sharon's disengagement plan was approved by the cabinet by fourteen votes to seven.
Under the decision, the cabinet will have to vote again for the actual implementation of the plan, including the evacuation of Jewish settlements, by March 2005.
Mr. Sharon's Deputy Premier, Ehud Olmert, said the decision is one of the most significant ever made by an Israeli government. "It is an historic turning point in the policy of the state of Israel. This is certainly a change relative to anything we have done from 1967. It only proves how determined the prime minister is to seek every opportunity to relieve us and the Palestinians from some of the constraints with which have to deal," he said.
Shortly after the decision, Mr. Sharon gave his interpretation of what had been agreed upon. He said the cabinet had given its backing to evacuate all Jewish settlements from the Gaza Strip and four from the West Bank by the end of next year.