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Last Updated: Sunday, 24 October, 2004, 17:19 GMT 18:19 UK
Israeli press reflects Gaza vote tension
Israeli press graphic

Newspapers serving both Jewish and Arab readerships in Israel reflect the tensions over Tuesday's vote in the Israeli parliament on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and some West Bank areas.

Despite the overwhelming belief among Jewish commentators that Mr Sharon will get his way and that parliament - the Knesset - will vote for the pullout, they express fears that political instability within Israel could increase and violence could continue.

Israel Arabic commentators, for their part, are divided over the plan.

In December 2003, Ariel Sharon uttered for the first time the explicit word "disengagement". All over the world, no less in Israel, many were astonished. People refused to believe it possible: the prime minister of Israel intends to evacuate at least 21 permanent Jewish settlements, to uproot 7,500 settlers from their homes, to unilaterally pullout from Gaza and a respectable area in the northern West Bank and all in a resounding unilateral step. Despite all, this is going to happen on Tuesday, at the Knesset plenum.

Commentator Ben Kaspit in Maariv

The decisions on the disengagement plan to be made by the cabinet [on Sunday] and the Knesset on Tuesday may be essential steps, but they will still not ensure its implementation. The demand to prefer halakha [Jewish law] to the law of the land, to exclude Israel's Arab citizens from the process of approving disengagement, to deviate from accepted norms of debate and decision-making, to shut up opposition by means both administrative and juridical, are all clouds that presage the storm. Violence will later emerge from its lair with all of its destructive force. If the country does not manage to impose its authority on the minority opposing disengagement, it will open the gate to its disintegration.

Commentator Uzi Benziman in Haaretz

The right wing's lobbying of MPs and ministers to push for a referendum on disengagement will proceed energetically in the coming days, as if no Knesset vote were scheduled for Tuesday. The right wing and the settlers are now pursuing two parallel courses. The first leads to Tuesday's vote, which they know is already lost. Now their hope is to minimise the margin of loss, based on the premise that a small margin will increase the chances of a referendum.

Commentator Nadav Shragai in Haaretz

Israel is at the start of a fateful week in which the legal foundations of the disengagement plan will be brought before the cabinet and the Knesset, and it seems they will be approved.... Many feel that the fate of the disengagement plan will not be settled in the Knesset. The strange situation in which the prime minister receives sweeping support from the opposition while being stymied by his party only brings home the extent of the meaninglessness of the ordinary political process.

Yediot Aharonot editorial

This week the disengagement plan will be brought before the Knesset for a decision, which of course will not be a decision but another link in the struggle for its implementation. A week later the Americans will decide if George W Bush will win another four years in the White House. There are few similarities between these two political campaigns barring one: In both cases, one is expected to put his trust in a man whose main reasoning for his deeds is that he believes in them.

Commentator Ofer Shelah in Yediot Aharonot

This [disengagement] act will - albeit with difficulty and pain - move Israel forward to a new chapter in the history of the conflict and of politics. The move is unilateral. It will not mean an end to terror and it will not bring peace. But because it will take place in Gaza and the northern West Bank, it is no less important than the ground-breaking initiative of Menahem Begin. All of these are sufficient reasons to expect the opposition parties not only to vote in favour of disengagement. They must overcome their gut feelings and allow the government to enjoy a solid parliamentary majority as it begins disengagement.

Haaretz editorial

Non-implementation of the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the removal of settlements in occupied areas, as even the prime minister describes them, will dissipate all the energies that are now being invested in this important struggle. Who will still have the emotional and political strength to repeat the failed experiment? Not Prime Minister Sharon, certainly not his possible successor Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and not the Israeli public if it is called to the polls.

Commentator Gideon Samet in Haaretz

It is impossible to exaggerate the importance, significance and drama of the occasion: On Tuesday the Knesset will declare the start of the end of the Israeli occupation and the start of the disengagement of the state of Israel not only from Gaza but also from parts of the West Bank. The absurdity... is that most of the supporters will come from the opposition. There is nothing that testifies more to the impossible parliamentary situation in which Sharon is in today.

Commentator Sima Kadmon in Yediot Aharonot

On Wednesday morning, following the disengagement approval, the political system will wake up to a different, much more stormy reality. Likud will disintegrate, even if not formally. Minister [Uzi] Landau, who intends to vote against the plan, will be expelled from the government. Most of the rebels will continue the struggle and sharpen the confrontation with Sharon... With this problematic majority in the Knesset and the rift in the right, Sharon will have to dismantle the settlements. Ministers say this will not work and Sharon will in the end find himself alone, a general without soldiers.

Commentator Shalom Yerushalmi in Maariv

Sharon now resembles a Bedouin with two wives. One is the right faction in the current coalition. She is ready to provide his daily needs, but is not ready to hear about evacuating settlements. The other is the opposition on the left. She is eager to support the evacuation, but opposes everything that Sharon does daily. Both are trouble for each other and both loathe their situation and the one who brought it about. In theory the husband, a man of many exploits, can live in parallel with both of them. Yet it is forbidden for him to bring them together, for then they would both set about him together and pull out what remains of his hair.

Commentator Nahum Barnea in Yediot Aharonot

For the first time in history, Israel will withdraw not only from a land it occupied, it will also retreat from an ideological position long entrenched in the right... We look forward to the future and to what history will record. We are certain that our being in the ranks of those who support the withdrawal from occupied Palestinian territories is better than being in the ranks of the extreme right and the settlers who oppose the withdrawal.

Commentary by MP Abd al-Malik Dahamishah in Israeli Arab Kul al-Arab

The United Arab List, Dahamishah-al-Sani, has announced that it will vote in support of Sharon's plan and its point of view is worthy. Hadash-Taal has declared its position to vote against the plan. And its point of view is also worthy... However, endorsement of the plan is one thousand times better than its rejection. No matter what the results of the plan, they serve the interests of the Palestinian cause.

Editorial in Israeli Arab al-Sinnarah

The disengagement plan does not propose to end the occupation in Gaza, but to re-arrange it. The disengagement plan proposed by Sharon comes to free the occupation from the Palestinian people without freeing the Palestinian people from the occupation.

Commentator in Israeli Arab al-Ittihad

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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