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Settlers debate to begin

by: Larry James - Last updated: 2004-10-26

Ariel Sharon

Ariel Sharon

The Israeli parliament, the Knesset, is set to begin debate on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's controversial plan to withdraw Jewish settlements from all of Gaza and parts of the West Bank.

The prime minister is expected to have enough votes to ensure passage, but by a slimmer margin than he might prefer.

Disengagement has widespread support among the Israeli public, but is bitterly opposed by the settler movement, as well as members of Mr Sharon's own Likud Party. Natan Sharansky is one of those Likud leaders who oppose the plan. He says the fact that some of Mr Sharon's own cabinet members are against it shows that the issue should be put before the people, in a national referendum.

"The behavior of the ministers and the deputy ministers is only a reflection of that unbelievable tension and confrontation that is taking place in our society. And that's why the first obligation of the prime minister is to do everything to remove, to decrease, this tension and confrontation," said Mr Sharansky. "And, there is no better way to do it than to go for referendum."

Settlers are planning what they say will be a massive protest rally against the Sharon plan, outside the Knesset before the vote, Tuesday

The cabinet voted, 13-to-6, Sunday to approve the prime minister's plan to compensate those settlers who are to be relocated. The compensation plan, in addition to payments to the settlers, also provides strict punishments for anyone trying to interfere with the evacuation of the settlers. The compensation package, which will cost an estimated half-billion dollars, will be presented to the parliament November 1.

Final approval is not expected until later in the year.

Story supplied by: VOAnews