As the completion of the unilateral disengagement nears, Israel stands short to demolish the synagogues located in the evacuated settlements in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli Minister of Defense Shaul Mofaz stressed that he opposes the demolition of the synagogues saying that it is difficult for him, as he grew up in a religious-traditional home to do that.

‘As a Jew and the defense minister in the State of Israel and as someone who grew up in a religious-traditional home and believes in the Torah of Israel and the sacred sites of Israel, it is very difficult for me to instruct the IDF to destroy and blow up Jewish synagogues,’ Mofaz said.

These synagogues were used by the anti-pullout protestors as strongholds to disturb disengagement.

The fate of these synagogues will be decided on Sunday in the cabinet meeting.

The religious parties in Israel are pressing to prevent the army from demolishing them. 

The religious right-wing Shas party’s chairman MK Eli Yishai has spoken on Friday with Likud and Labor ministers in an attempt to persuade them not to vote for the demolition of the buildings.

Also Friday the Israeli President Moshe Katsav called on the Israeli government not to demolish synagogues in the Gaza Strip.

Israel wants the Palestinian Authority to carry out this task of demolishing the houses of worship.

‘I think it’s preferable for the destruction to be carried out by the Palestinians, as many rabbis and Israeli citizens think will happen, than for IDF soldiers to do it,’ said Mofaz.

Yet, Palestinians feel that it is unfair to leave this job for Palestinians, fearing that it will negatively affect the image of the Palestinians in the world if their pictures demolishing houses of worship would be broadcast all over the world.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat urged Israel to demolish the synagogues, saying it would be unfair to put the Palestinians in a situation of ‘damned if we do, damned if we don’t.’

‘We maintain the highest respect for Judaism. We don’t want to be put in a situation that we are demolishing synagogues in front of the world,’ Erekat said.

Images of Palestinians attempting to demolish Joseph’s tomb in Nablus in 1996 are still repeatedly played on TV stations in the world.