Expulsion Plan Faces New Problems

Legal advisors have upset the government timetable for disengagement, forcing Prime Minister Sharon to take the risky step of asking for Knesset approval as early as January.<BR><br/>

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, | updated: 15:51

Prime Minster Ariel Sharon will have serious problems convincing the Knesset to approve his program so soon, particularly since a Knesset committee already has questioned economic and moral aspects of the so-called disengagement plan. Sharon wants to dismantle 25 Jewish towns in Gaza and northern Samaria, expel the Jewish residents, abandon Jewish property to Arabs and leave security control in the area in the hands of the Palestinian Authority.

Legal advisors have told Mr. Sharon that his original timetable, in which the Knesset would approve the plan two weeks before its planned execution in May, would not stand up to legal challenges, according to the Maarive newspaper.

The advisors told him that the courts probably would demand at least several months between approval and implementation of the proposal. More pressure on Sharon also came from the head of the Disengagement Authority, Yonatan Bassi, who told the prime minister that he cannot function until the government has approved the measure.

These changes have ruined Sharon's strategy, which was to schedule four votes on separate phases of the expulsion bill. He will have to ask the Knesset to pass the entire package next month, in order to dismantle the Jewish communities in mid-2005. The timing also places him in a more vulnerable position concerning the proposed coalition with the Labor and United Torah Judaism parties, which is not yet final.

"Sharon will have to sell all this to Binyamin (Bibi) Netanyahu, Limor Livnat, Yisrael Katz, Silvan Shalom and his colleagues," the Maariv article noted, referring to senior Likud ministers who have expressed partial or full opposition to the Sharon proposal. Knesset Members thought they would have several months before having to discuss the controversial plan, which is far from being detailed and completed.

So far, the Knesset has only approved the plan "in principle," but has not yet voted on the actual destruction of Jewish towns and transfer of the Jewish residents and their property. It also has not voted on the amount of compensation. Two Knesset committees have been discussing these issues, raising several unanswered questions concerning the amount of compensation and sensitivity towards those who would be forced to leave their homes.

A January vote also would complicate Sharon's need for approval of the 2005 budget, which does not take into account the 3-4 billion shekels required for the transfer and compensation.