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The letter dismissing Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Friday was successfully delivered to him, but the delivery of a similar letter to Minister Binyamin Elon was foiled when he decided to outfox the prime minister and hide from the messenger. Those close to him say he plans to arrive at the cabinet meeting today and vote against the disengagement plan. It is sad and rather insulting that a minister in Israel undertakes feints and maneuvers of this sort. The spectacle that may unfold at the Prime Minister's Office if Elon does indeed try to carry out his plan will be reminiscent of a political crisis in a banana republic.

If the vote in the cabinet is held today on the phased disengagement plan proposed by the prime minister, and a majority in its favor is reached, it will be the first step of historical importance leading to the evacuation of territories designated for the establishment of a Palestinian state.

The importance of the move stems not only from it being aligned with the vision of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon - that by the end of 2005 there will be no Jews in the Gaza Strip - but also from the fact that any reasonable person understands the pullout from Gaza and four settlements in northern Samaria is the prelude to the pullback of Israel to within the Green Line boundaries, give or take minor changes. There is something symbolic in the fact that the decision for such a step is taken close to the 37th anniversary of the outbreak of the Six-Day War - and initiated by one of the architects of Israeli settlement policy in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The dismissal of Lieberman and Elon from the government and the withdrawal from the coalition government of the National Union will result in a new reality in the Israeli political scene: the extreme right will be separated from the central political stream that determines the national agenda and will cease to participate in the formulation of national policy.

Moreover, a clear division line has emerged in Israel's right-wing camp. To date, in spite of differences in hue, this camp was united on the ideological basis of settling the Land of Israel beyond the Green Line; henceforth, it will be divided on this issue. If in the years since the Six-Day War the dividing line on the future of the territories separated the right and the left, it will now pass within the right-wing.

Lieberman and Elon were dismissed after it became clear that the compromise proposal of Minister Tzipi Livni would not bring agreement between the prime minister and the opposing Likud ministers. Over the weekend and last night, efforts were made to revive the compromise, but in view of the conditions set for a deal by opponents of the plan, and especially the demand for the continued flow of funds to the settlements designated for evacuation, there is little hope in its success. The meaning of the compromise in this or any other version will be to do away with the essence of the disengagement plan and burden it with potential traps during the stages of implementation.

After the pullout of the National Union from the coalition there is no room in it for the National Religious Party, and its two ministers should part from the government. This would make it possible to seek approval of the a full-fledged disengagement plan. After the prime minister gains a majority in his cabinet for the plan, he will have to focus his efforts on rallying a majority in the Knesset.