An Israeli soldier and a Palestinian militant have been killed in a shootout in the West Bank, putting further strain on a three-month-old ceasefire. The Israeli army says the early morning raid on a village near Tulkarem was to search for militants. The dead Palestinian was reportedly the leader of an Islamic Jihad cell that killed five people in a Tel Aviv suicide bombing in February. He had escaped from a Palestinian jail.
Meanwhile Israel’s Minister for Diaspora Affairs and Jerusalem has resigned in protest at Israel’s planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Natan Sharansky wrote to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon saying the plan was “a tragic mistake that will exacerbate the conflict with the Palestinians.”
This is the latest of several ideologically-motivated cabinet walkouts and is likely to have no effect on Sharon’s grip on power. Sharansky says Palestinians must adopt full democracy if they want their own state alongside Israel. Such sentiments ring false for many Palestinians, given Sharansky’s support for keeping Jewish settlements on occupied land, and the government’s declarations that Israel will keep much of the West Bank under any future deal.