The Knesset approved the Disengagement Implementation Law by a wide majority on February 16, empowering the government to pay approximately $870 million to 9,000 settlers from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank and begin evacuating them in five months.
The law was approved in a 59-40 vote with five abstentions. The opponents included 17 Likud MKs.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon got another boost when the Knesset expressed resounding opposition to a referendum on disengagement. It removed a measure that was to have left the door open for a referendum by putting a 21-day delay on the evacuation order. An amendment to make the implementation of the law conditional on a referendum was also rejected in a 72-26 vote, with haredi and Arab parties joining in the vote against referendum.
The Knesset voted in 1982 to evacuate the Sinai settlements, but the disengagement plan will require removal of settlements in areas that are considered to be part of the Land of Israel. The four isolated northern West Bank settlements are Ganim, Kadim, Homesh, and Sa-Nur.
The evacuation is scheduled to begin in July 2005, assuming the decision receives the expected cabinet approval, and the government does not collapse beforehand. The prime minister and the defense minister must also issue evacuation orders.
Sources: i>Jerusalem Post, (February 16, 2005)