The Israeli parliament has approved a planned withdrawal of settlers from Gaza.
In the Knesset, 67 people voted in favour and 45 voted against the plan proposed by the Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, with seven abstentions.
Ariel Sharon's plan was approved despite strong opposition within his own Likud Party and fierce opposition from thousands of settlers, who gathered outside during the vote.
How momentous is the decision? Do you agree with Mr Sharon that withdrawal would "decrease hostility" and lead Israel "forward on the path to peace with the Palestinians"? Are you someone from the region who is affected by this decision?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:
Land for peace has never worked in the past and won't work now.
Donna, Appleton, USA
Maybe my memory fails me but was there peace in 1967? What makes people so sure that returning to the 1967 borders will bring peace?
Mark S, Jerusalem
This can only be taken as a positive sign. Israel is a democracy and Sharon has had a difficult time in getting this through. The world is watching with hope.
This is not a withdrawal; this is only a population transfer, from Gaza to the West Bank. A real withdrawal would mean that Israel withdraws its military forces, which it is not planning on doing. This operation won't lead to peace, but to an enlargement of Israel, beyond its international border and in breach of UN resolutions, by consolidating the tenable positions in the West Bank. I am sorry for the Israeli settlers cynically used as pawns and human shields by Israel's expansionist strategy, and for the Palestinians which will be kept in their current inhumane condition.
Oscar Lima, Brighton, UK
It's all very well talking about this but when will it actually happen? When will the full withdrawal from the West Bank happen? Why not start next week instead of next year?!
Absolutely. It's time that Israel begins taking steps towards the establishment of a Palestinian state. The settlements are widely regarding as illegal, anyhow, and even if this first step is a small, almost token one, progress towards what's right for all of the innocent people on both sides of this conflict is long overdue.
Jeff, Washington DC, USA
With both Gaza and the West Bank Israel there are two options available. Either they must cede the territory or they must annex it giving those who live there the right to vote. Either way Palestinians will start to have a say in how they are governed.
Aaron Farnsworth, Vancouver, Canada
Israel should withdraw not just from Gaza, but from the West Bank also! We all know that all those settlements are illegal.
Shavkat, Stockholm, Sweden
I think this is a good move, despite the fact that it is a victory for Hamas. The onus is now on the Palestinians to make Gaza quiet both before and after the withdrawal. The world's media, so long critical of Israel, should focus closely on what the Palestinians do next. Now that Sharon has broken the logjam and taken the first historic move, the Palestinians must show that they have the statesmanship to reciprocate in kind.
David Ward, London, UK
It is encouraging to read that 65 % of Israelis support this move.
Ben Neal, Sussex, England
Leaving Gaza, in what ever form, is the right thing to do, but it will not bring peace or security for either side. I do not think that the settlements were ever a good idea, but to say they are illegal is to misunderstand the situation - they are on disputed territory, not foreign sovereign land. All of the pre-1948 area of Palestine is disputed, which is why there have been so many wars. Had the Arabs won huge chunks of Israel in 1967 and built on land owned by Israelis, would those calling Jewish settlements illegal have done the same with Arab settlements? I doubt it.
After nearly 40 years, there would have been no Jews left anyway. Despite the shortcomings of the withdrawal plan, the Palestinians should grasp this latest opportunity and show that they can start to build a state. If they can do so and reign in the hot-heads and fanatics, the pressure will be on Israel to do a viable deal over the West Bank. It is time to decide which is more important to the Palestinians - a sovereign state or total victory over Israel.
Brian, Otley, UK
The earlier Israel leaves the better. If it would withdraw from all Palestinian territories there could be a real chance for peace. Or then be courageous and make it one (secular) country for all who inhabit it now. Why not anyway?
Kristina Bergmann, Cairo, Egypt
Israel's decision to withdraw from Gaza is a positive move towards peace in the Middle East. This conflict has poisoned the world for decades and Sharon seems to have realized that military force alone cannot solve the problem. The EU should seize this opportunity to help both sides negotiate.
Madi, La Chapelle Sur Erdre, France
It is a small step in the right direction. If you want all so-called terrorist acts to end, we must ultimately go back to the 1948 borders!
Lily Farr, Washington DC
Maybe a complete withdrawal will bring peace to the region, but somehow I don't think this will occur anytime in the near future.
Nabeel Al Mehairbi, Abu Dhabi, UAE
A step in the right direction. But now what is to be seen is weather both the Israelis and the Palestinians have the will to take it forward to its logical conclusion so that a lasting solution could be achieved.
R Venugopal, Delhi , India
Nowadays the Palestinian people have the chance to get a little freedom in their own land. Ariel Sharon's plan opens a small possibility to reach the peace after many years of battles in this.
Jesus Aparicio, Cordoba, Spain
The world ask Israel to pull out of Lebanon, they do and the world is still not happy. The world ask Israel to pull out of Gaza, they do and the world is still not happy. They are in a no win situation. The Palestinians must now show some concessions
Jamie, London UK
It's a start anyway. The Israelis have occupied Palestinian land for far too long.
Geoff Morgan, Candlers Ford
Absolutely not. Think of all the Palestinians and Israelis that have died so that a few thousand settlers can live comfortable lives surrounded by the poverty and death of overcrowded Gaza, their sacrifices will have been in vain. Where will it all end, next they will let Palestinians use the roads or even allow them to harvest from their fields.
James Scobbie, Scotland
Sharon pulling out of Gaza is just one small step in healing the wounds Israel has inflicted upon the Palestinian people for decades. Until the inhuman acts caused by the Israeli Military and Government have completely ceased there will never truly be peace within Palestine or Israel.
Yasmeen, London UK
As an ex British serviceman during the latter part of Britain's mandate in Palestine I doubt if there will ever be peace in that land until the illegally created state of Israel is uncreated and once again reverts back to the rightful citizens of that country, the Palestinian Arabs
John Astell, Auckland New Zealand
Well, I do agree they should pull out otherwise violence will just keep escalating. Religious fanatics on both sides will keep recruiting. And the apparent wave of 'Islamic terrorism' may subside once the Palestinians have the state they were given back in 1946.
Terry, London, UK
We are tired of these bloodsheds! Withdrawing from Gaza is a good idea.
Wantwa Mwahimba, Lilongwe, Malawi
Yes, they should withdraw from Gaza. The Israeli's like to take what does not belong to them.
Denise Wood, Perth Australia
It's really mind boggling that many (mostly Europeans) view the Palestinians as "victims". For decades they had near autonomy and chose the path not of commerce and innovation, but of violence and tribalism. The Arab World is a violent world. Only the naive and/or delusional could believe that a return to the 1967 borders would bring peace to the region. The Arab states of enormous amounts of land, are they able to create peaceful, scientifically progressive societies? How can one believe more real estate will alter Palestinian behaviour?
Steven Celba, Milwaukee, WI
Like the people who wrote before me, this is a big step Israel is doing and now it's up to the Palestinians to stop violence. I really do think its a waste of time to talk only about Israel's actions and forget that there are terrorists organizations involved that made Israel to try one last chance out of all the many many who where before to finally get peace.
Hila, Raanana, Israel
The respect for international law is a clear demarcation of a nation state and a terrorist - Israel's occupation of Gaza is contrary to international law! There is no question about it - Israel must withdrew from Gaza!
Ansar, Sydney, Australia
This is simple! No matter what Israel does or does not do there will be no peace. The Arabs hate the Jews, and Israel. They have made this clear over and over again. Peace will not be achieved until the Arab world gives up this senseless hatred.
This is not a "withdrawal", this is only a population transfer, from Gaza to West-Bank. A real withdrawal would mean that Israel "withdraws" its military forces, which it is not planning on doing. This operation won't lead to peace, but to an enlargement of Israel, beyond its international border and in breach of UN resolutions, by consolidating the tenable positions in the West-Bank. I am sorry for the Israeli settlers cynically used as pawns and human shields by Israel's expansionist strategy, and for the Palestinians which will be kept in their current inhumane condition.
Oscar Lima, Brighton, UK
Withdrawal from Gaza means nothing until the Palestinians living in Gaza have freedom of movement. Israelis no longer living in occupied Gaza is not the same as ending the occupation.
Gary Chiles, Wellington, New Zealand
Even though it would only be a token gesture, Israel should dismantle the settlements in Gaza, all of which are illegal and in direct violation of international law, and follow that action with a plan for the full withdrawal from the West Bank. Without such actions, peace in the region will never be achieved.
Don Chisholm, Culiacan Mexico
I believe Sharon is making a good move, by leaving Gaza. He is showing the world that Israel is willing to give peace a try and this is not the first time this is being offered. Now it is up to Palestinians to stop all attacks. Do they want to listen to terrorists that provide them with false hopes and delude their minds or do they want to actually take responsibility and have a future.
What are the Palestinians going to do to show good faith? Will they enforce their agreements to stop terrorism? It's interesting no matter how many concessions Israel makes, too many are demanding more of Israel then they have asked of any other country.
LA, Santa Monica USA
Jewish settlers have no business outside Israel's official borders. Their withdrawal will be a major step towards peace. Not just in that region but worldwide.
Jonathan Walker, Stuttgart, Germany
It's good for future peace that they will leave Gaza. They should leave they West Bank too and there could be a Palestinian state side by side with Israel.
Arian, Tehran, Iran
Israeli withdrawal from Gaza is a move in the right direction. Hopefully the next positive initiative will come from the Palestinians.
John, NJ, USA
Absolutely not. This is yet another chapter of Israel's long going act of pretending it wants peace with the Palestinians when in fact all it wants is to delay the peace process and any hope of a true Palestinian state.
Absolutely not. Any withdrawal from Gaza can be interpreted as a victory for Palestinian terrorists.
Albert, London, UK
This situation will not be good for the Palestinians of Gaza; they will be restricted in their trade and movement to Israel and every time Hamas launches another one of their rockets into Israel there will be retaliation. It is a shame because the Israelis offered peace four years ago - now they will just have an absence of war instead.
James, London, UK
This is not a first for Israel as many commentators say; a key part of the peace deal with Egypt was withdrawal from settlements in Sinai. Israeli withdrawal from occupied lands has been done; it can be done now and should be done more in the future. Peace in the Middle East and elsewhere is so influenced by such events we should be applauding this move by Sharon.
Alistair, Yeovil, UK
I believe that Israel's proposed withdrawal from Gaza will increase the likelihood of some form of peaceful settlement with the Palestinians. I think that PM Sharon is taking a large risk politically with this but that the benefits to be gained from this justify the risk.
Dave Woods, Cleveland, Ohio, USA
Any Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories is very positive. But Sharon has proved time and time again that he cannot be trusted, and let us not forget he is the provocative spark that triggered the current intifada. The world sits with baited breath, hoping for the best but what to expect?
The Palestinians will see this as a victory and this will make terrorist organisations such as Hamas stronger.
Y Huisman, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Israel is finally ridding itself of a problem it never wanted. Arab terror was the reason for the occupation of Gaza and is the reason why the Israelis are still there. The solution was always simple: end terror and the occupation of Gaza will end. Now Israel is taking the initiative, but I bet the terror won't end.
Neil, London, England
Had they agreed to do so before, hundreds and thousands of lives would have been saved. The illegal occupation and brutal force the Israeli army have used may have reached an irreparable stage, but at least now, hopefully the violence will end. Actions speak louder than words so maybe everyone should reserve judgement until Israel have withdrawn, and to 1967 borders, not partially.
Danny Paton, Belfast, Ireland
Any withdrawal is good. But doubt and unease remain. Gaza will not be free - its borders will still be closed and manned by soldiers. There is little to celebrate.
James Scobbie, Scotland
Israel will maintain control of Gaza's borders, coastline and airspace - that's not freedom. They should leave West Bank and Gaza and go back to the 1967 border.
Israel withdrawing from Gaza sounds really good. The reality, Gaza will still remain a big open air prison for 1.5 million Palestinians but at a reduced financial cost to Israel. The real prize, the West Bank, Israel will hold onto even more tightly as was made clear by Sharon's top advisor Dov Weisglass: "When you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem". This is no step towards peace but rather a blatant move to imprison the Palestinians. This will only cause bigger problems down the road as the real issues (1967 borders) will not be dealt with.
Harry, New Orleans, USA
To all the people that say a withdrawal to the 1967 will bring peace: Israel was still being attacked continuously by the Arabs before 1967 and therefore withdrawing will change nothing except show weakness. Israel is under no obligation to return land it won in a defensive war to the aggressor who is still in a state of war with her.
Roy Kinston, Melbourne, Australia
It is a start, but I worry about Israel's ambitions in the West Bank.
Al, Tunbridge Wells, UK
Yes they should withdraw, but not just from Gaza, also the West Bank. This is a small gesture - Sharon and the Israelis have much further to go before they command any promises from the Palestinians.
Nida Al Fulaij, London, England
The real question should be if Israel withdraws, will Hamas force them to go back in? Regardless of who started the process, this is a huge opportunity for Palestinians to prove that security concerns are no longer a legitimate reason to continue the larger occupation.
Jim, NJ, USA
I'm not optimistic about peace coming from this move. Having visited Israel and the Palestinian territories this year, it seems quite clear to me that the Israeli government does not want peace - rather, it uses continued conflict to justify further seizures of land. The withdrawal from Gaza will be used to justify taking more land in the West Bank. The Israelis should end the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, abandon all the illegal settlements and withdraw to the Green Line.
Jonathan, London, UK
I agree with Mr Sharon that withdrawal could "decrease hostility" and lead Israel "forward on the path to peace". I have to admit this issue is far away from home to me, but with that said I do believe if Mr Sharon sells it as a goodwill gesture to the greater Arab world, it could have a positive effect. It may indeed be a step down a path, but that path will be chosen by Israel (look at policy of the last 50 years if you need proof).
I would like to see a borderless free economy for the entire Middle East. Turkey, Egypt and Israel should be lobbying for a joined economic union or currency area, one in which all people are treated as equal citizens, with equal rights and access. When they pick that as their path opposing sides will not have a foundation for revolt, and protests will be nothing more than punk in nature.
Dave Warne, Germany
Yes; it's a pity that it has to be done unilaterally rather than with a full peace agreement. It should be remembered that it was never an ambition to gain such territory, but Israel found itself in occupation after a defensive war in 1967. The settlements perhaps were a bad idea but Israel has always been willing to compromise for peace. The trouble is that the terrorists have never given peace the chance to come to fruition. Maybe now, at least from Israel's point of view, the Gaza problem will be one less to tackle.
Laurence, London, England.
Israel has made a giant step to peace by agreeing to withdraw all settlers from Gaza. The ball is now firmly in the court of the Palestinians to end terror and incitement. If this happens, we are within touching distance of Middle East peace. Does Arafat possess the same courage as Sharon?
Simon G, Ra'anana, Israel
Of course the withdrawal should go ahead, but the extremist Jewish settlers are making it very difficult. Their supposed religious justification is the biggest obstacle to peace in the region. One needs to look into the minds of these individuals who do not understand that their illegal occupation is in violation of every rule in the book. They will not budge from their position because they are absolutely adamant that they are God's chosen people and Israel was meant for them.
David Spencer, Arkansas, USA
Israel should end the occupation and withdraw to 1967 borders. This will mean peace and security and anything short of that is an occupation.
Ahmad Hmoud, Amman, Jordan
It's typical that what should be reported as a good news story for the people of the Gaza strip should be spun by the BBC as anti-Israel. The Palestinians have been pushing for the withdrawal of Israeli settlements for years, and now Israel is doing so unilaterally, the report is still so negative.
Joel Korn, London, England