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Israel Wraps Up Gaza Withdrawal & Moves On To West Bank

PM Sharon: 'U.S. Agrees Palestinians Must Disarm Terrorists Before Roadmap Negotiations'

MKs Call PM: 'Corrupt, Deceitful & Heartless Vowing To Topple Him Over Withdrawal'

Israel Evacuates Netzarim, Last Settlement In Gaza Strip

Netzarim

Thirty-five years of Israeli settlement in the Gaza Strip has come to an end. Netzarim, the last of the twenty- one settlements, was evacuated on Monday, August 22nd. Tomorrow, the IDF moves into four West Bank settlements in northern Samaria to evict the remaining settlers and 'infiltrators' there. Back in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon briefed the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on his controversial withdrawal plan. Several right-wing MKs lashed out at Sharon saying he would go down in Jewish history as a tyrant.

Sharon is banking on Bush to demand the dismantling of Palestinian terror organizations before entering the Roadmap. The Israeli Prime Minister made this clear when he briefed the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee today. He went on to say an extension of the current Palestinian cease-fire would not suffice; Mahmoud Abbas must disarm Hamas and the other terror organizations. This was stipulated in Stage A of the Roadmap and Sharon stressed: 'There will be no advancing to Stage B until Stage A is completed'. He was confident that U.S. President George Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also supported this position. When asked what Israel would do if the Palestinian leader did not dismantle the terror groups, Sharon declared: 'Israel will not enter the Roadmap negotiations! After Israel carried out the withdrawal, the onus is now on the Palestinians to do their part'.

PM Sharon

Settlement Demolition: It was necessary to destroy the settlers' homes and buildings, Sharon said. Otherwise, some settlers would repeatedly try to return to them in the future and the IDF would continually be vexed with this problem. As for the Palestinians, they wish to construct high-rise apartment buildings on the ruins of the settlements. The settlers' building will be dismantled and part of the materials utilized in future building by the Palestinians and the rest buried in Sinai.

Northern Samaria: After the evacuation of the last Gaza settlement of Netzarim, the IDF will now evict the settlers in four settlements in northern Samaria. An estimated 2,500 Jewish 'infiltrators' have move in and threaten to resist the pullout. Sharon said although the four West Bank settlements are being evacuated the area will not be handed over to Palestinian control as is the case in Gaza. The final status of Samaria would be resolved by negotiation.

Settlement Blocs: Two Likud MKs wanted to know about Sharon's view of borders for the West Bank settlement blocs which he has said will remain part of Israel. The Prime Minister repeated the settlement blocs (Maale Adumim, Gush Etzion, Ariel etc,) would remain an inseparable part of Israel. Sharon went on to say the security fence would be built around the settlement blocs and future building would create territorial contiguity with Israel. Again, Sharon added that he would leave the question of final borders until the final status talks.

Terror Threat: A senior IDF intelligence officer reported there has been good co-operation with the Palestinian security forces in preventing attacks during the current disengagement. The Palestinians realized that Israel would hit back hard if Israeli civilians were attacked while they were being evacuated from the Gaza Strip. But Brig. Gen. Yossi Kupperwasser warned this restraint may lessen now after the withdrawal and the terror groups may try and boost motivation by launching fresh attacks on the West Bank.

Sharon Under Fire: Two MKs opposed to the withdrawal, hauled Sharon over the coals in committee. Likud MK Uzi Landau and MK Effy Eitam of the National Union accused the Prime Minister of being corrupt, deceitful and heartless. Two opposition members came to Sharon's aid: Opposition leader Tommy Lapid and Labor MK Amram Mitzna. They called it hutzpa to slander Sharon after the disengagement had been approved by the Knesset and the Cabinet. However, Lapid told IsraCast that his Shinui party would table a bill to hold an early election when the Knesset reconvenes after its current recess. Lapid and Mitzna disagreed with Sharon's condition that Abbas must dismantle the terror groups as a condition for entering the Roadmap. They say it will be sufficient if the Palestinian leader maintains the ceasefire. Mitzna also says that Labor will bolt Sharon's coalition if the Prime Minister does not adopt this approach.

David Essing

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