Likud ministers to quit cabinet

The four Israeli government ministers from the right-wing Likud party have agreed to resign from cabinet on Sunday after a dispute with party leader Benjamin Netanyahu who wanted them to resign on Thursday. But according to Tel Aviv daily Haaretz, close aides of the ministers have criticised Netanyahu in what seemed as an attempt to undermine the party leader's authority.

Netanyahu was elected the leadership of Likud after the post was vacated by the Israeli Prime Minister who left to form his own Kadima party last November. Netanyahu had earlier resigned as treasury minister in Ariel Sharon's cabinet in disagreeement over the premier's decision to withdraw Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip and four small West Bank enclaves.

According to Israel Radio, the four ministers had on Wednesday night refused to accede to Netanyahu's demand to submit their resignations by 10 am. The four ministers spent Wednesday night discussing the matter before announcing their decision on Thursday morning that they would submit their resignations at the next cabinet meeting scheduled for Sunday.

Netanyahu announced he would take the party out of the coalition following his election as leader last month. The move was delayed until now, however, due to Sharon's stroke, which has kept the premier in hospital since Wednesday, 4 December.

Doctors have described Sharon's condition as critical but stable, keeping him in induced coma for several days, AKI reports.


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