Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon said today that the forcible evacuation of militant Jewish nationalists who have settled in the northern Sinai to block the turnover of the territory to Egypt will begin Wednesday to prevent clashes with the Army close to the April 25 withdrawal deadline.
Sharon's surprise announcement came as Israel's parliament voted 58 to 4, with 43 abstentions, to reject a motion of no confidence in Prime Minister Menachem Begin's government brought by opponents of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty.
The opposition Labor Party abstained in the vote, which was supported only by the sponsors of the motion, the Tehiya (Renaissance) Party, and by National Religious Party member Rabbi Haim Druckman.
Sharon told the parliament that the government had planned to begin evicting nonresident squatters who have been moving into the Sinai much closer to the April 25 withdrawal deadline, but that it was forced to act now because of the danger of violent confrontations.
In the southeastern Sinai town of Ophira, security agents began to remove about two dozen seminary students who moved into vacant apartments.
During today's debate on the no-confidence motion, the prime minister said that he was determined to prevent "the spilling of Jewish blood."
Begin said the Stop the Sinai Withdrawal Movement had vowed to bring 20,000 demonstrators to Yamit. Even if they only mustered half that number, he said, Israeli soldiers would have to use firearms to evacuate them