Netanyahu: Labor Must Accept Economic Policy in Coalition

Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Sunday that the Labor Party must accept the government's economic policy if it is to join the coalition.

Negotiations between Sharon and Labor chairman Shimon Peres on Labor's potential entry into the government are expected to accelerate in the coming days, if Attorney General Menachem Mazuz decides to close the investigation against Sharon in the Greek island bribery affair.

Well-informed political sources predict that Labor will join the government only if Sharon appoints Peres as deputy prime minister and foreign minister, positions that would enable him to influence Israel's diplomacy.

Earlier Sunday, Sharon told the cabinet in its weekly meeting that he won't allow ministers and deputy ministers to be absent from Knesset votes, including no-confidence votes, and that they must support his disengagement plan.

Sharon also called on ministers not to travel abroad unless they coordinate their trips with him, and added that he would not approve overseas travel during Knesset votes.

"Until the end of the summer session, your attendance is needed. You are all required to be at the Knesset and vote with the coalition," Sharon told the ministers.

In addition, Sharon told the cabinet that he was determined to evacuate all settlements in the Gaza Strip settlement bloc of Gush Katif by the end of 2005, and that he had instructed the chairmen of the committees in charge of implementing his disengagement plan to start work immediately.

Mofaz: Jerusalem terror attack foiledDefense Minister Shaul Mofaz told the cabinet that security forces have recently foiled terror attacks in Jerusalem and at the Karni crossing in the Gaza Strip.

He said that a timetable has been set for meetings between Israeli and Egyptian teams working on the disengagement plan, and that the teams will meet within the next two weeks. Mofaz added that Fatah members are showing interest in the implementation of the disengagement plan, in order to weaken Hamas.

Military Intelligence chief Brigadier General Aharon Ze'evi told the cabinet that the government approval of the disengagement plan has generated regional and international momentum, and that Egypt is starting to cooperate with Israel Defense Forces in the Philadelphi route between Israel and Egypt.

The cabinet on Sunday approved the appointment of NRP Minister Zevulun Orlev to the diplomatic-security cabinet and to the ministerial committee for legislation, in place of NRP chairman MK Effi Eitam, who resigned over the pullout plan.

As part of the efforts by the Prime Minister's Office to preserve the current coalition, the director-general of Orlev's Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, Dov Goldberg, will join the professional steering committee dealing with the disengagement.

In addition, the PMO and Justice Minister Yosef Lapid told Orlev and NRP's faction chairman MK Nissan Slomiansky that, for now, no compensation advances will be handed out to Gaza settlers slated for evacuation.

Annan: UN wants direct role in implementation of pullout planIsrael is warming to a United Nations and European Union role in the Gaza Strip following feedback received by Sharon on the disengagement plan in telephone conversations with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and the EU head of foreign affairs, Javier Solana.

In a telephone conversation with Annan on Friday, Sharon was told the world body is interested in playing a direct role in the implementation of Israel's disengagement plan from the Gaza Strip.

In the call, initiated by the secretary general, Annan congratulated Sharon and his government for approving the disengagement plan and said the decision was brave and likely to advance peace in the region.

The two men discussed details of the plan, with Annan saying "the United Nations would be glad to assist as much as possible for the realization of the plan."

The secretary general added that the international community would like to assist and contribute - in efforts and resources - in order to ensure that the implementation of the disengagement plan is successful.

For his part, Sharon said he is interested in working in full cooperation with the international community and the Quartet, in order to further the disengagement plan.

Annan has emphasized, however, that the United Nations, as one of the members of the Quartet - along with the United States, Russia and the European Union - regards the disengagement plan as part of the road map.