Israeli ministers are due to give their final approval for Premier Ariel Sharon’s Gaza pullout plan and for the new route of the West Bank security barrier.
Pundits say the vote should pass easily, paving the way for evacuation of Jewish settlements in Gaza in the next few months. Settlers have vowed non-violent resistance and their allies in parliament appear likely to use a vote on the budget to try to sink the government. While the Gaza plan has raised peace hopes, Palestinians are worried the West Bank barrier, which loops around Jewish settlement blocks, will deprive them of land they want for a future state. Israel is adamant the structure keeps out suicide bombers but Palestinians see it as a ruse to hang on to most of the enclaves on the territory the Israelis captured in the 1967 war. In contrast to Gaza, just four of the West Bank’s 120 settlements are slated for removal.