Lapid: Demolition of Gaza homes must end
Lapid says elderly Palestinian woman reminds him of his grandmother, denies implying comparison between Rafah raid and Holocaust.
Justice Minister Yosef Lapid on Sunday harshly criticized Israel's demolition of Palestinian homes in the Gaza Strip, saying it must end and warning that it could seriously damage Israel's standing in the world.
Speaking at the weekly cabinet meeting, Lapid said Israel must halt the destruction. "The demolition of houses in Rafah must stop. It is not humane, not Jewish, and causes us grave damage in the world."
Specifying the potential damage in the international community, Lapid said: "At the end of the day, they'll kick us out of the United Nations, try those responsible in the international court in The Hague, and no one will want to speak with us."
Lapid sparked controversy when he said a picture of an elderly Palestinian woman searching on all fours for her medication reminded him of his grandmother.
Cabinet members immediately thought Lapid, a Holocaust survivor, was comparing the Israeli operation in Rafah to the Holocaust - but that was not his intention, Lapid told Israel Radio.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom and Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked Lapid to retract his comments, the radio reported.
Health Minister Dan Naveh told the radio that even an indirect analogy to the Holocaust was inappropriate and has "no place whatsoever."
But Lapid said his comments had been misunderstood.
"I'm not referring to the Germans. I'm not referring to the Holocaust," Lapid told Israel Radio. "When you see an old woman, you think of your grandmother."
Sharon meets defense officials to discuss revised pullout planSharon met Sunday morning with heads of the defense establishment to discuss the security aspects of the revised plan to disengage from the Gaza Strip and parts of the northern West Bank.
Israeli sources relay that senior IDF officers object to this plan to evacuate settlements in stages; they would prefer to dismantle the Gaza settlements and four northern West Bank settlements all at once.
The modified plan is to be presented to the government for approval next Sunday, and Sharon has promised ministers that he will provide a document detailing the advantages inherent in the pull-out.
The importance of Sunday morning's attempt to recruit the support of top IDF officers stems from Sharon's promise to prepare this document, and his need to allay his ministers' security concerns.
Under the revised disengagement plan, settlements slated for evacuation are to be divided into a few groups - isolated settlements on the Gaza Strip, the four West Bank settlements, Gush Katif bloc settlements - on the basis of the level of the security problems they have raised.
In logistical terms, sources explain, the IDF preference isn't feasible. "Army bulldozers won't be able to head toward all the settlements at the same time, and so the evacuation will have to be in stages," they state.
However, the senior sources continue, long stretches of time need not pass between the dismantling of the various settlements: "If the army wants to carry out [all the settlement dismantling] in a short period, that's no problem," they insist.
Officials in the PM's Office are unhappy that top IDF officers are voicing reservations about the disengagement plan. The original expectation in Sharon's circle was that leading IDF officers who complained during budget discussions about the heavy burdens shouldered by their units in the territories would be eager to support a plan that promises to ease their units' burdens.
Under the revised plan, the IDF will destroy residences on settlements that are evacuated, but leave public infrastructure facilities untouched.