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Sharon to Present Gaza Withdrawal Plan to Parliament - 2004-10-11

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says he will present his controversial Gaza Strip withdrawal plan to parliament on October 25.

In remarks opening a new session of parliament, Mr. Sahron laid out a timetable for legislative action on his disengagement plan. If it is approved, he said he will submit additional legislation the first week of November on the compensation to be given to Jewish settlers who would have to relocate.

The controversial Sharon plan calls for a complete withdrawal of Israeli settlements from the Gaza Strip and a partial withdrawal from the West Bank.

The Israeli prime minister promised "constant supervision" during the planned pull-out, and said the government reserves the right to adapt the plan to defend Israelis and prevent terror.

Mr. Sharon also said he is still committed to the U.S.-backed "road map" for peace with the Palestinians, but he said that until the Palestinians showed themselves to be partners for peace, Israel will be forced to take its own steps.

Opposition Labor Party leader Shimon Peres said, after the speech, that he would vote for the disengagement plan only if steps are taken to implement the road map.

Prime Minister Sharon did not directly address recent calls that the withdrawal be put to the voters in a national referendum, but he suggested that would not be the route he would advocate. He said decisions taken by the parliament are the key to a broad national consensus.

At least 10 to 15 members of Mr. Sharon's own Likud party are expected to vote against the disengagement plan. Other influential Likud leaders have expressed their reservations about the plan so it is not entirely certain they how much support there is for the move. The National Religious Party (NRP) and National Union Party, former allies in his coalition government are expected to vote against it.

Meanwhile, the Israeli military continued its operations in the Gaza Strip. A local leader of the militant group Islamic Jihad escaped an Israeli attack on his home.

Mohammed Sheikh Khalil, was not home at the time. Since Israel began its operation, dubbed Days of Penitence, on September 30 more than 100 Palestinians have been killed, including nearly 30 civilians.