Evacuation of Jews from Gaza vital for existence of Israel: Sharon
Tue Feb 3, 4:47 AM ET Add Top Stories - AFP to My Yahoo!
JERUSALEM (AFP) - The evacuation of all Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip (news - web sites) is pivotal for the survival of the state of Israel, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (news - web sites) said, as his deputy said a plan for "disengagement" from the Palestinians could come into effect by the summer.
Speaking to Tuesday's Maariv daily after his bombshell announcement that he had ordered plans to be drawn up that he would end with the evacuation of all 7,500 settlers from the occupied territory, Sharon acknowledged that such a move would meet much opposition.
"I am talking about the Gaza Strip and I think that with a long-range view it would be better for Israel were there not to be any Jewish settlements present in the Gaza Strip," said Sharon. "That isn't bad for us, it is good for us.
"It will be difficult for me, but I know that it is important for the continued existence of the state, the continued existence of this people."
Settlers' leaders in Gaza threatened to try to bring down Sharon's coalition government after he revealed the plans to dismantle 17 settlements in Gaza.
Sharon, who was long regarded as the settlers' champion, said that he need to "look ahead, not backwards" and was prepared for any confrontation with his traditional right-wing supporters.
"I'll look them in the eye. I won't have any problem looking them in the eye," he told Maariv.
"True, it will be sad for me, it will be difficult, it won't be easy, it's complicated, there is already a second generation of settlers there, and they have children, and there are thousands of dunums of hothouses, packing plants, schools, factories, thousands of residents there, I know them closely, but I will look them in the eye."
One dunum is a tenth of a hectare, or around a quarter of an acre.
Meanwhile Sharon's number two Ehud Olmert told Israeli public radio a unilateral plan to separate Israel from the Palestinians will be applicable from June or July.
"The aim of this plan is clear, and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has spoken of it on many occasions: it will be applicable in four or five months, that is in June or July," the deputy prime minister said.
"Sharon knows that in the end, he will get the majority needed to apply the plan," Olmert added.
Sharon has warned that unless the internationally-drafted "roadmap" blueprint for peace made tangible progress, he would implement his own "disengagement plan" which would see Israel evacuate a number of settlements in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, while strengthening its control over others.
Sharon told the online edition of the Haaretz daily Monday that he had "given an order to plan for the evacuation" of all 17 settlements in the Gaza Strip.
"It is my intention to carry out an evacuation -- sorry, a relocation -- of settlements that cause us problems and of places that we will not hold onto anyway in a final settlement, like the Gaza settlements," Sharon said.
"I am working on the assumption that in the future there will be no Jews in Gaza."
As well as causing outrage among settlers, his announcement shocked members of his Likud party, but an opinion poll published Tuesday showed a large majority of Israelis in favour of a pullout from the Gaza Strip.
The poll published in the Yediot Aharonot daily gave an approval rate of 59 percent, against 37 percent opposed to the move and seven percent of no opinion.
A total of 57 percent thought Sharon was acting for political reasons, and only 24 percent considered he was trying to distract attention from corruption accusations hanging over him.
Eleven percent thought his motives were mixed, and eight percent had no opinion.
The poll was carried out among a sample of 500 people by the Dahaf institute, and had a margin of error of 4.5 percent.
If Mr. Sharon plans to evacuate [the Gaza Strip settlements], no Palestinian will stand in his way, But I will believe it when I see it.
Israel's Sharon considers referendum on Gaza evacuation plan
1 hour, 45 minutes ago Add Mideast - AFP to My Yahoo!
JERUSALEM (AFP) - Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (news - web sites) was considering calling a referendum on his plan to evacuate all Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip (news - web sites), although members of his own government and party were battling the pullout plan.
"The referendum is one of the options being envisaged, but there is also the option of early elections and the formation of a new government," the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
"All these options are being studied at the moment."
Sharon dropped a political bombshell on Monday by stating that "in the future there will be no Jews in Gaza."
The evacuation of the Gaza settlements forms part of a larger "disengagement plan" which the government has said it will start implementing in the summer if no progress is made in the peace process with the Palestinians.
Although Sharon was widely reported to have told his aides he would call elections in June or July if he is not given parliamentary backing for his plan, it was the first time the option of a referendum had been confirmed.
A poll published in Tuesday's Yediot Aharonot daily showed that 59 percent of Israelis backed his move against 37 percent who were opposed.
Sharon is expected to travel to Washington later this month to brief US President George W. Bush (news - web sites) on his proposals, a move right-wing members of his coalition cabinet have warned will precipitate their resignations.
The traditionally hawkish premier has said he is determined to push through with the uprooting of the 7,500 Jewish settlers living in Gaza. His chief of staff, Dov Weisglass, is expected to travel to the United States in the next few days to lay the groundwork for a visit.
Yediot said the main opposition Labor party would most likely join a national unity government after a walk-out by both the National Religious Party (NRP) and National Union Party (NUP).
Labor party leader Shimon Peres has already pledged parliamentary backing for Sharon's plans but has still to declare whether he would join a national unity government.
The leader of Israel's ultra-orthodox Jewish party Shas reacted to Sharon's plan for Gaza by accusing the former general of "running away."
"I certainly do not agree with Sharon's step. Sharon is in fact running away," Eli Yishai told public radio.
Shas has participated with Sharon's Likud party and with Labor in past coalitions, but Yishai's comments appeared to rule out the chances coming to Sharon's aid.
Transport Minister Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the NUP, was confident that Sharon would not get cabinet approval for his plan.
"There is a reasonable chance that we will succeed in mobilising a majority in the cabinet against this plan of Sharon's," he told the radio.
Likud deputies were also gathering signatures for a petition warning Sharon against making any decisions regarding Gaza without first consulting the party.
Palestinian officials have voiced scepticism about whether Sharon will actually see through the evacuations, but prime minister Ahmed Qorei said he "welcomed any process that leads to a withdrawal from occupied Palestinian territory".
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat (news - web sites)'s national security advisor, Jibril al-Rajub, cautioned: "I hope Sharon is not bluffing us and bypassing the implementation of the roadmap."
Both sides have said for months that they are willing to hold talks but the two premiers have yet to meet, nearly five months after the resignation of Qorei's predecessor, Mahmud Abbas.
Their respective chiefs of staff met in Jerusalem for several hours on Wednesday in yet another bid to line up a summit but failed to reach agreement.
But in a statement issued after the meeting, Qorei's office said that further discussions would need to take place before any summit could be arranged.
"They agreed to have another meeting as soon possible in the future to resolve the differences over the issues which will be discussed in the meeting between the two prime ministers."
If memory serves I have seen it used on a2k before. In addition if zion did not know what it meant he could have asked. Or is that bit of courtesy unacceptable on your forum.
Has anyone heard any news on the plans to increase settlements on the Golan Heights?
Israel Tells Court W.Bank Barrier Route May Change
Mon Feb 9, 5:14 PM ET Add World - Reuters to My Yahoo!
By Megan Goldin
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli state attorneys told the Supreme Court Monday the route of a barrier designed to stop suicide bombers, which cuts deep into the occupied West Bank, would probably be revised to ease Palestinian hardship.
"The fence route will probably be moved, and a change of policy in the seam-line area is being considered in order to ease as much as possible the lives of the Palestinians living in it," attorney Michael Blass told the two-hour hearing.
Completed parts of the barrier have restricted Palestinians' access to fields, schools and neighboring villages and two Israeli civil rights groups had petitioned the court to declare illegal the planned route of the barrier, looping deep into the West Bank to encircle Jewish settlements.
It was not clear when the judges would rule. The World Court in The Hague (news - web sites) is to look at the same issue later this month.
The petitioners pursued the case despite signals from Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (news - web sites)'s office that Israel intended to shorten the route, making it follow the pre-1967 war boundary with the West Bank more closely in a bid to secure U.S. support.
Parliamentary allies opposed to Sharon's plan to evacuate settlers from the Gaza Strip (news - web sites) dealt him an embarrassing blow by abstaining in a confidence motion. He survived the second such vote in a week with only a few more votes than the opposition.
Israel has so far built 93 miles of the planned 450-mile barrier of wire fences and cement walls.
In court, Israel said the barrier had stopped suicide bombers from reaching its cities, where hundreds have died in attacks since a Palestinian uprising began in 2000.
"The basic reason for the barrier is the duty the government has to protect the right to life of its citizens," Blass said.
The International Court of Justice is to open hearings in The Hague on Feb. 23 at the behest of the United Nations (news - web sites). Its opinion will not be binding.
In a separate challenge to Israel, Palestinian leaders were considering whether to declare a state unilaterally in the West Bank and Gaza. A senior Palestinian official said it could counter an Israeli threat to give up on efforts to negotiate a peace and take go-it-alone steps to disengage from the conflict.
"This is one of the options that are being studied in response to Sharon's unilateral plan and to try to foil it," said the official, Yasser Abed Rabbo.
Unilateral moves could wreck a U.S.-backed peace "road map." It calls for an end to violence, confidence-building steps and negotiations leading to creation of a Palestinian state by 2005.
Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurie urged the Quartet of world powers to revive efforts to implement the road map.
"I think it is time for the Quartet to move, at a high level, to push the peace process back on track," he said in Dublin, referring to the U.S.-EU-U.N.-Russia grouping.
The U.S. envoy to Israel told a group of rabbis President Bush (news - web sites) was "firmly committed" to peace efforts: "Let no one suggest that the interests of the administration are waning even during this election year," Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer said.
He also criticized a Palestinian trial of four suspects over the killing of three Americans in Gaza, saying it should not be held behind closed doors and that the charges be tougher.
Sharon, 75, had a hospital operation on kidney stones on Monday and aides said he would recuperate at home for some time.
I think its time for the Israeli government to see that decades of settlement-policy has made things worse for both sides, Israeli and Palestinian. They should have listened to Rabin, who was aware of the risk of such an aggressive settlement-policy. It also shows by the way that Orthodox Jews seem to have a lot of power in political cases, and with a birthrate like that :wink: I fear the decisions Israel is planning to make in the future. It is time for Israel to make some concessions, how hard they will be. But with the way they are acting now, they are creating the suicidebombers they so deeply hate.
Israel to Tear Down Part of W.Bank Barrier-Official
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel will begin tearing down part of a barrier being built in the West Bank on the eve of World Court hearings over the legality of the controversial project, Israeli officials said on Saturday.
Work to remove an eight km (five mile) section of the barrier near the West Bank villages of Baka al-Sharqiya and Zeita would begin on Sunday, Israeli Defense Ministry spokeswoman Rachel Niedak-Ashkenazi told Reuters. She called the timing of the barrier's removal on the eve of the International Court of Justice deliberations a coincidence and said it had been planned for six months.
"This week the eastern fence will be dismantled," Niedak-Ashkenazi said, explaining that the barrier in the area would follow the "Green Line" which delineates the Israel-West Bank border.
The International Court of Justice at The Hague (news - web sites) will open hearings on Monday at the request of the United Nations (news - web sites) General Assembly for a non-binding opinion on whether Israeli is legally obliged to tear down the barrier.
Israel says the barrier is intended to keep Palestinian suicide bombers out of its cities, but Palestinians call it a grab for occupied land they want for a future state.
Israeli officials have said the route of the partially built 728 km (452 mile) barrier of fences and walls may be changed to cut out the controversial loops around Jewish settlements deep in the West Bank.
The United States and European Union (news - web sites), which oppose the World Court's involvement in the case, have criticized the barrier because the planned route winds deep into the occupied West Bank, causing hardship to thousands of Palestinians.