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Opponents of Israel's Disengagement Plan Vow to Press On

Opponents of Israel's plan to withdraw from Gaza later this year say they'll continue their rallies and demonstrations to make their case. Their pledge comes after Israel's parliament, the Knesset, gave its final approval for the disengagement.

Settlers and their supporters, who are vehemently opposed to disengagement, wasted no time in making their views known. As the Knesset was meeting on Wednesday to deliberate its final approval for the plan, opponents tore up copies of the bill under deliberation.

The bill focused on the compensation to be paid to the 8,500 settlers who will be forced to leave their homes and businesses in Gaza and small portions of the northern West Bank. But, it is the underpinning legislation for the entire disengagement plan.

In the end, the vote was 59 to 40 in favor. Knesset member Arieh Eldad of the National Union Party opposes the plan and told Israel radio, protest rallies will continue as will calls on the government to hold a national referendum on the issue.

"We will avoid violence, but when 100,000 people are walking things might go out of control so quickly," he said. "That's why we try to say that in order to avoid civil war in Israel, we must go for national referendum."

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has dismissed calls for a referendum on disengagement, saying it is a stalling tactic by the plan's opponents.

Anti-disengagement protesters have held demonstrations and rallies and at times scuffled with police. A dozen young protesters were arrested late Wednesday and about 50 demonstrators were detained on Monday after clashing with police.

A number of government ministers have also reported receiving death threats because of their support for the disengagement plan. Transport Minister Meir Sheetrit said recently the atmosphere reminded him of the time just before the assassination of Prime Minster Yitzhak Rabin. Mr. Rabin was gunned down in November 1995 by a right-wing Jewish extremist, who was opposed to the peace treaty with the Palestinians