|Israeli workers set up mobile home at site for relocation of Jewish settlers after planned pullout from Gaza Strip later this summer|
Israel's Supreme Court ruled that the government's Gaza withdrawal plan is constitutional, removing the last legal obstacle to the pullout, which is due to begin in mid-August. The court rejected 12 petitions by opponents of the plan. It said Gaza is not a part of Israel, and, therefore, the evacuation of more than 8,000 settlers is not a violation of human rights.
"We didn't expect anything from this court, since the petitioners are Jews, patriots and settlers," said Yoram Sheftel, a lawyer for the settlers.
Mr. Sheftel said the court is much more lenient.
"When the petitioners are Arabs, terrorists that come to destroy this country," he said.
The Israeli government welcomed the Supreme Court decision.
"I hope this ruling makes it absolutely clear to the settlers that the pullout is going ahead," Justice Minister Tzippe Livni told Israel Radio.
In another boost to implementation of the plan, Israel and the Palestinians have struck a deal to coordinate the pullout. Under the agreement, Palestinian security forces would deploy in Gaza, and prevent attacks by militants as Israel withdraws. Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat told VOA that police will maintain law and order.
"We have an obligation, and we must honor our obligation," he said.
But Israelis have their doubts. A new poll shows that public support for the withdrawal has dropped to an all time low of 48 percent, down from a high of 64 percent last year. Pollsters say Israelis fear that, once the army leaves Gaza, there will be a new wave of Palestinian terror.