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Sharon Wins Vote For Gaza Pullout

Efraim Inbar, a political scientist at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, near Tel Aviv, said that if Sharon refused and the cabinet members resigned, "he may become a minority in his own party, and this will bring down his government."

While Israelis saw Tuesday's vote as historic, many Palestinians and some Israeli Arabs criticized the disengagement plan, noting that Israel would continue to control all access to the Gaza Strip after the withdrawal. Several pointed to an interview two weeks ago in which Sharon's top adviser and former chief of staff, Dov Weisglass, said that the true aim of the plan was to indefinitely freeze the political process with the Palestinians while allowing Israel to strengthen its grip on the West Bank, where about 240,000 Jewish settlers live in 120 settlements, surrounded by about 2.2 million Palestinians.


Orthodox Jews who oppose the pullout plan protest outside the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem. (Goran Tomasevic -- Reuters)

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Video: The Israeli Parliament is divided following its vote on Prime Minister Sharon's Gaza withdrawl plan.
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"I cannot accept the evacuation of Gaza from the inside and the incarceration of Gaza from the outside while Weisglass talks about deepening the occupation of the West Bank and annexing settlements there to the state of Israel," said Ahmed Tibi, an Israeli Arab member of the Knesset who voted against the plan.

"We welcome any Israeli withdrawal from any Palestinian land," said Hassan Abu Libdeh, chief of staff to the Palestinian prime minister, Ahmed Qureia. But to be successful, he said, it has to be part of "a resumption in the peace process and implementation of President Bush's vision of a Palestinian state alongside an Israeli state."

Instead, Abu Libdeh said, Sharon is "marketing the Gaza redeployment as a major Israeli step, when in fact it is a major initiative to take over for good much of the West Bank."

About 17,000 demonstrators, mostly from Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, held a festive, day-long protest outside the Knesset. Many said they felt betrayed by Sharon, who is widely considered the architect of Israeli settlement expansion.

"Sharon is a traitor," said Anat Livni, 45, of Nofim, a small West Bank settlement 25 miles north of Jerusalem that is not targeted for evacuation. "We built our lives in these places, and we raised our families there. How dare Sharon tear us away from our homes and give them to the enemy?"

Some complained that by withdrawing unilaterally, Sharon was rewarding Palestinian terrorism and getting nothing in return, unlike the 1982 Sinai withdrawal, part of an agreement in which Israel won a formal peace with Egypt.

"Giving away territory only encourages the terrorists and shows them that murdering us pays off and brings them the results they want," said Adi Rodal, 31, who lives in the northern West Bank settlement of Peduel, which is not to be evacuated.

Settlements closed schools and gave children the day off so they could attend makeshift civics classes in the parks that surround the parliament building.

"My brother and I built a model of our house in Gush Katif that the bad men in government want to destroy," said Avital Kadishman, 8, referring to settlements in the southern Gaza Strip. "They want to smash up our house and throw us out, not just our family but all our neighbors as well. The government doesn't like us anymore and are throwing us away."

Researcher Samuel Sockol and special correspondent Ian Deitch contributed to this report.


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