IN OTHER WORDS : Unnecessary

Benjamin Netanyahu abruptly resigned from his cabinet post to protest PM Ariel Sharon’s plan to withdraw Israeli settlements from the Gaza Strip. He performed well during the more than two years he served as finance minister. He ushered in free-market reforms that aided local businesses, calmed foreign investors’ fears, cut welfare benefits and helped lift Israel out of a recession. But the Israeli economy needs a restrained, orderly pullout from Gaza a whole lot more than it needs reduced welfare benefits, and neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians have needed Netan-yahu’s political grandstanding as a cabinet member opposing the Gaza withdrawal.

Netanyahu, apparently preparing to face off against Sharon soon for the leadership of the Likud Party, said he had to resign because of his concerns about Israel’s security. He has certainly done all he can to fan Isra-elis’ fears with fiery speeches warning that Gaza could become a base for radical Islamic terrorists. In resigning from his post, he is making the political calculation that he can cordon off the far-right wing of Likud from Sharon, and then manage to look prescient if the Gaza pullout is a disaster. That kind of negative wish fulfilment

is hardly what this troubled area needs. Sharon should be congratulated for standing firm and proceeding with the Gaza pullout. — International Herald Tribune