Cabinet split over Gaza synagogues’ razing

At least nine ministers are expected to vote against the demolition of the evacuated Gaza Strip settlements’ synagogues in a crucial cabinet vote on Sunday. The cabinet meeting will determine the future of the houses of worship in the Strip. Six ministers have voiced their opposition to the move over the weekend, joined by four other ministers who said they will vote against demolition at the meeting. The ministers who are expected to vote against the demolition of synagogues in the Gaza Strip are: National Infrastructures Minister Benjamin Ben-Elizer, Health Minister Danny Naveh, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, Education Minister Limor Livnat, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and minister without portfolio Tzachi Hanegbi who all expressed their opposition over the weekend. The other three ministers are Agriculture Minister Yisrael Katz, Environment Minister Shalom Simhon and Public Security Minister Gideon Ezra. Only three minister have said they will vote in favor of demolition: Interior Minister Ophir Pines-Paz, minister without portfolio Haim Ramon and acting Science Minister Matan Vilnai. The remaining ministers, including Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Vice Premier Shimon Peres and Transportation Minister Meir Sheetrit are still unsure how they will vote. Government sources in Jerusalem believe Sharon will oppose the demolition. Shalom explained his decision to vote against demolishing the structures, saying Jewish leaders from all over the world warned him that razing the synagogues could be a dangerous precedent justifying the demolition of Jewish holy places by foreign governments. „Jews do not destroy synagogues,” said Shalom. „I hope the Palestinian Authority will come to their senses and not allow barbarism and vandalism to rule over the synagogues. If this does happen, the world will see what we’re dealing with.” Unfair to the Palestinians Senior Palestinian officials said it would be best if Israel demolished the buildings and did not leave the job for the Palestinian Authority. Jibril Rajoub, a senior security aide to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said the PA could not guarantee the protection of the structures, „because the Palestinians see them as symbols of occupation”. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat urged Israel to demolish the synagogues, saying it would be unfair to put the Palestinians in a situation of „damned if we do, damned if we don’t.” „We maintain the highest respect for Judaism. We don’t want to be put in a situation that we are demolishing synagogues in front of the world, or some of our people may do something that we don’t want them to do,” Erekat said. bpi-INFO