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Tens of Thousands Rally in Tel Aviv Against Gaza Pullout

There's been a mass protest in Tel Aviv against the planned pullout from the Gaza Strip, which is due to begin next week. But, President Bush believes the pullout "will be good for Israel."

Tens of thousands of Israeli settlers and their supporters flooded downtown Tel Aviv to express their opposition to the upcoming pullout from Gaza. The square was awash in orange, the color adopted by opponents of the withdrawal. The demonstrators included many young people and children. In a speech to the crowd, settler Debby Drori lashed out at Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

"You are expelling Jews from the Land of Israel," she said. "You have laid the cornerstone for the destruction of Israel."

But Mr. Sharon is determined to implement the withdrawal despite months of protests. On Monday, the army will deliver evacuation orders to the settlers warning them that their presence in Gaza is illegal and they have 48 hours to move out. Beginning on Wednesday, those who refuse to leave will be removed by force. More than 9,000 Israelis will be evacuated from 21 settlements in Gaza, along with four more in the West Bank.

In an apparent attempt to give a boost to the embattled Israeli leader, President Bush spoke out in support of the Gaza pullout.

"I believe the decision that Prime Minister Sharon has made and is going to follow through on will be good for Israel," he said.

Mr. Bush was interviewed by Israel Television at his ranch in Texas.

"I think in the long run, two states living side by side in peace is the ultimate solution for Israel's security," he added.

But opponents of the pullout believe just the opposite. They expect Gaza to become a terrorist entity committed to the annihilation of the state of Israel.