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Israel Parliament Approves New Sharon Government

The Israeli parliament has approved Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's new government coalition that brings together his right-of-center Likud Party with the two opposition factions, the left-of-center Labor Party and the right-wing religious party, United Torah Judaism.

The Israeli parliament, the Knesset, narrowly approved a broad coalition government formed by Mr. Sharon to push through his plan to withdraw all Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip later this year.

After a three and one half hour debate, punctuated by loud denunciations from opponents, the final tally was very close - 58 for and 56 against. The new government is an alliance of Mr. Sharon's Likud Party, the opposition Labor party and the small ultra-orthodox religious party United Torah Judaism.

The new national unity government was sworn in immediately after the vote.

The new coalition controls 66 of the 120 legislative seats in the Knesset, but not all of Mr. Sharon's own Likud Party members voted for the new government. During the debate, Mr. Sharon warned Likud rebels that failure to approve his new government would bring disaster to the country by forcing new elections and a period of turmoil.

The victory gives Mr. Sharon the parliamentary majority he lost last year when some allies quit the government or refused to back him in protest over the planned pullout from the Gaza Strip and four small West Bank enclaves.

Mr. Sharon also enjoys a parliamentary cushion by virtue of six votes he won from the dovish Yahad party in the critical Knesset vote. Yahad is committed to supporting his controversial withdrawal plan.

Mr. Sharon's allies say the Knesset will vote next month on a compensation package for those settlers who will be forced to leave their homes. The evacuation is to begin next July.