The Israeli government overwhelmingly rejected Sunday a proposal, submitted by Agriculture Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud), calling for the delay of the disengagement plan until November 2005.

Nineteen ministers voted against the appeal and only three Likud ministers supported it – Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Health Minister Danny Naveh, and Katz himself.

Ahead of the cabinet meeting, Israeli vice Prime Minister Shmion Peres warned that his party (Labor) would leave the coalition if the disengagement is delayed.

Despite Sharon’s warnings, Netanyahu is still adamant to skip the Wednesday’ Knesset vote on the same issue. 

Israeli Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would skip Wednesday’s Knesset vote on a proposal to postpone the implementation of the disengagement plan despite Sharon’s dismissal warnings.

On Friday, Netanyahu announced he would vote in favor of postponing the pullout in the cabinet Sunday meeting, but would absent himself from the Knesset vote.

The Knesset is called to vote on two bills on Wednesday; the one sponsored by MK Zevulun Orlev (National Religious Party) proposes a three months delay; the second by MK Yitzhak Levy (Religious Zionism) proposes a six months delay.

On Saturday, Netanyahu’s office issued a statement, reminding Sharon of the 1997 vote on the Hebron agreement, where Sharon, then a minister in Netanyahu’s cabinet, skipped the Knesset vote.

However, Sharon’s office reacted furiously to the announcement, noting that under Article 11 of the 1949 Transition Law, a minister who either votes against the government or ‘misses the vote’ will be considered to have resigned, unless the prime minister decides otherwise.

‘Netanyahu will act as Sharon did in 1997.’ The finance minister office responded.

So far, it seems that Netanyahu is standing alone on this issue; all other Likud hard-line ministers are expected to vote against the bill in the Knesset.