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Friday Headlines

Courtesy of ISN News

With just two days to go before the Israeli cabinet is meant to discuss a revised Gaza-withdrawal plan Prime Minister Ariel Sharon does not appear to have a majority in favor of the proposal.

His original version of the plan was rejected by members of his ruling Likud party during a referendum a month ago.

Now he is asking ministers to vote on a phased program, with the final aim a complete withdrawal of Israeli citizens and soldiers from the Gaza Strip and to remove four villages from Samaria, at the northern end of the West Bank.

The two right-wing parties in his coalition say their ministers will vote against the plan as do several ministers from Sharon’s own Likud.

Sharon and his top aides have spent the entire week trying to persuade waiverers to back him.

There are rumors he will decide to cancel the vote at the last minute if he sees he has no majority.

U.S. President George W. Bush put his full backing behind the original plan.

Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak may soon write to Ariel Sharon offering Egyptian soldiers to fill the void that would be left if Israel was to withdraw from the Gaza Strip.

Israel’s Channel 2 television reports Mubarak will make the offer in the next few days in an official presidential letter to Sharon.

The paper will also include a commitment to stop Palestinians from using smuggling tunnels under the border between Gaza and Egypt.

Palestinians have dug more than 100 such tunnels in a bid to smuggle weapons, counterfeit money and terrorists in and out of the strip.

Israel says that is why it entered the Palestinian town Rafah last week. Most of the tunnels begin under homes in Rafah.

Correction: In Thursday’s Daily News Focus, we reported that a deal was rumored which Israel would allow Yassir Arafat freedom to travel in return for a halt to terror in the Gaza Strip. In fact, Arafat’s travel is not restricted at the moment. He chooses, however, to remain in his Muqata’a headquarters for fear that terrorists hiding in the complex would be exposed to arrest if he left. [We thank Dr. Aaron Lerner for calling this to our attention.]