Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has cleared yet another political hurdle on the way to implementation of his plan to pull out of the Gaza Strip this summer. The Knesset overwhelmingly rejected a proposal by Sharon’s hawkish opponents to hold a national referendum on the withdrawal, by a vote of 72-39. Sharon opposes a referendum, charging that it’s a tactic aimed at delaying the pullout since it would take months to organize a vote. Proponents say a referendum is the only way to heal the rift in the nation caused by the Gaza plan. Many right-wing Israelis who voted for Sharon feel cheated because he did not run on a platform of removing the 21 Jewish communities in Gaza. The last political hurdle is the budget, which is set to be approved later this week.
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