The Knesset resumed its fateful but humdrum two-day Knesset session on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan today, and is expected to vote at 8 PM this evening. The vote, in which the legislators will be asked to approve or reject the Cabinet decision on disengagement of June 7, 2004, will be conducted on a roll call basis.

Each of the MKs have been allotted 5 minutes to express their opinion; about half spoke last night, and the remainder are speaking today. There were few surprises in the speeches, though MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union) aroused the ire of some when he began to read off, in a dry, Holocaust Day-like tone, the names of the residents of Gush Katif and northern Shomron: "Noa Reich, 22, Jewess, a resident of Atzmonah, slated for expulsion; David Reich, 24, Jew, a resident of Atzmonah, slated for expulsion;" etc.

MK Yigal Yasinov (Shinui) requested to use his time to give the Knesset Members "five minutes of silence in which to carefully think about their vote." Knesset Speaker Ruby Rivlin, however, did not allow him to do so, saying that "demonstrations" are not allowed in the Knesset. "If you do not wish to speak to the point during your allotted time, you may take your seat," Rivlin said. Yasinov quickly decided to speak.

This the first - and only - Knesset debate in which a vote on the expulsion plan is being held, and it is expected to pass by a margin of approximately a dozen votes. Prime Minister Sharon told reporters today that all other decisions related to the disengagement will be made by the Cabinet, and not in the Knesset.

It must also be noted that the bill itself does not stipulate that the Jewish communities will be uprooted, but only confirms the Government's decision of June 7, 2004. At that time, as Sharon later said, the Government "decided that it is Israel's intention" - as opposed to what it will actually do - "to relocate all Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip and four settlements in Samaria by the end of 2005." The government decision itself specified, "this decision does not [necessarily] include the dismantling of Jewish communities." Another Cabinet decision will be required to approve the actual demolition of the Jewish localities.

Sharon led off the tension-packed debate yesterday with a heart-felt speech saying he had not deceived anyone, and emphasizing the importance of the unilateral withdrawal. Ynet commentator Ofer Shelach wrote this morning, "Read Sharon's speech carefully. What are the reasons he mentions for the critical importance of the disengagement plan? - That he thinks it's critical, and some garbling about the demographic danger - as if there is something in his plan to thwart this danger..."

Sharon said,

"I am convinced to the depths of my heart and to the best of my understanding that this disengagement will strengthen Israel in its grasp on the territory that is vital for our existence, and will receive the blessing and admiration of those near and far, will lessen the hostility, ... and will advance us on the way of peace with the Palestinians and our other neighbors."

"...As someone who fought in all of Israel's wars, and has 'learned on his flesh' that without power we have no chance to survive in this region, which has no mercy on the weak - I have also learned from our experience that not only the sword will determine this bitter battle in this land."

Asked about this apparent contradiction - "power is critical" and "no mercy on the weak," yet at the same time, "the sword won't determine" - MK Benny Elon (National Union) told Arutz-7 today,

"This apparently corresponds with his strange quote of not long ago, that 'restraint is strength.' He has apparently discovered a new form of power, and that is to turn the other cheek, over and over. He has unfortunately caused us to lose our unity, our majority, his own prestige, and is leading the State of Israel through a swamp of mud and mire in which we will be stuck for many years to come."

Sharon continued, "I am told that this disengagement will be understood as a shameful retreat under pressure, will increase the terror attacks, and will show Israel in its weakness and our nation as one that is not willing to fight and stand up for itself. I reject this categorically. We are strong enough to defend this land and totally smash the enemy that wants to destroy us."