Sharon says he won't give in to settlers

October 19, 2004|By COX NEWS SERVICE

JERUSALEM - Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon vowed yesterday not to yield to pressure from Jewish settlers to give up his plan to withdraw soldiers and settlers from the Gaza Strip and a portion of the West Bank.

One day after an acrimonious meeting with settler leaders, Sharon told reporters that he would not forsake national security for the narrow interests of the group he once championed.

"The future of the government is not that of a specific interest group but of the entire nation, for which I have been given the responsibility," Sharon said.

Israeli politics has been consumed with the so-called disengagement plan ever since Sharon unveiled it last December. Sharon says his policy to withdraw from Gaza - where about 8,200 Jewish settlers live among 1.3 million Palestinians - and build a fortified barrier in the West Bank will lessen friction between the two people and keep Israelis more secure.

Opposition to the proposed Gaza withdrawal has eroded Sharon's parliamentary support. His governing coalition operates without a majority in parliament, but opponents have not been able to force new elections.

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