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Minister's warning

Last updated: 2004-10-22

Yosef Lapid

Yosef Lapid

Israel's justice minister says calls by far-right rabbis for soldiers to refuse orders to evacuate Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip could lead to an Israeli civil war.

Speaking to a group of Israeli lawyers, Yosef Lapid also warned right-wing activists that there are limits to the government's patience with those who advocate sedition.

Mr Lapid's warning comes days before a parliamentary vote on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's controversial plan to withdraw all Israeli settlers and troops from the Gaza Strip by 2006.

The withdrawal plan has split Mr. Sharon's ruling Likud coalition and polarized Israeli public opinion.  Mr Lapid called the rift more serious, dangerous and threatening than ever before.

Polls show most Israelis support the withdrawal, and parliament is expected to approve the Sharon plan.  Opponents say it would reward Palestinian terrorism.

Story supplied by: VOAnews