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Vote planned tonight

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

Ariel Sharon

Ariel Sharon

The Israeli parliament, the Knesset, winds up a second day of debate on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's controversial disengagement plan, with a vote on the issue planned for later Tuesday night. 

Debate on the plan began Monday, with Mr Sharon saying the Israeli pullout would increase Israel's security. He was heckled by opponents who view the pullout as caving in to Palestinian terrorism and an open invitation to further attacks.

The Sharon plan is expected to win the majority vote necessary for passage, but only narrowly.

Israeli media are predicting the prime minister will win 66 or 67 of the 120 votes to be cast.

A majority of the 40 Likud members in the Knesset are expected to vote for the plan. But a substantial number of them are expected to vote against it, which is a clear sign of a deepening rift within the party. Likud Party Caucus leader Gidon Sar, acknowledges as much and says it will take a lot of fence mending to repair the damage that differences over the issue have done to the party.

"I will do my utmost in order to keep the unity of the Likud," he said. "It is very hard but it is in the interest of all Likud members and leadership.

Likud's traditional opponent, the Labor Party, says it will vote for the plan.

The plan calls for the evacuation of all 21 Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip and four small settlements in the West Bank. It has been controversial from the moment it was announced.

Although they are eager to see Israel leave any Palestinian territory, many Palestinians condemn the plan as a unilateral move that will put an end to the peace process and deny them the chance to create a viable state.

After an initially cautious reaction to the idea, the international community has come around to support the disengagement plan, including Israel's most-important ally, the United States.

If the plan is implemented, it would be the first removal of settlements from territories captured in the 1967 Middle East War since 1982, when the Sinai was returned to Egypt.

Meanwhile, Israeli forces have withdrawn from the Khan Younis refugee camp in southern Gaza, after a 30-hour incursion that killed at least 16 Palestinians.

Separately, Israel says a Palestinian was killed today by an Israeli settler near the West Bank city of Nablus, as he tried to enter a settler's home.

Story supplied by: VOAnews