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Israeli Cabinet Minister Steps Down in Protest

An Israeli cabinet minister stepped down Monday, in protest over Israel's planned withdrawal from Gaza.

Israeli cabinet minister Natan Sharanksy resigned Monday, calling the Israeli pullout from Gaza a "tragic mistake" that will encourage Palestinian violence. He told the Associated Press television network he did not think it was "right or moral" for him to stay in the Israeli government, given his constant opposition to the pullout. "From the very beginning, I was against the disengagement plan because I am against one-sided steps and I believe that a peace process can be successful only if there is reciprocity."

Outgoing World Bank President James Wolfensohn, who is helping coordinate Israel's Gaza withdrawal, continued his meetings with Israeli politicians in Jerusalem Monday. In his new role, Mr. Wolfensohn is working on behalf of the so-called Mideast Quartet mediators: the U.S., the United Nations, Europe, and Russia.

Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the region on a two-day visit, toured Jerusalem's Al Aqsa Mosque under heavy security. The mosque is Islam’s third-holiest site, and one of the most politically sensitive areas in the region. The site, which once held the biblical Jewish temple, is holy to both Jews and Muslims.

Mr. Erdogan is only the second Turkish prime minister to visit Israel. He says he wants to mediate in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. He met with Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom Monday.

Later, Mr. Erdogan traveled to Ramallah, where he met with Palestinian leaders. He joined Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in laying a wreath at the grave of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Later, he discussed Turkish aid to the Palestinian authority, and Turkey's role in the region, during talks with Mr. Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Queria.