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Israeli Parliament Passes Key Gaza Pullout Bill


Israel's parliament has approved Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to withdraw Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank.

By a vote of 59 to 40, Israeli lawmakers passed a bill Wednesday to compensate the 8,500 settlers who will be affected.

The lawmakers also rejected calling a referendum on the plan. Mr. Sharon's disengagement plan still needs the approval of his cabinet, which is expected to come on Sunday. The Sharon government hopes to implement the plan by September.

Opinion polls show the majority of Israelis support it, but hardline Israeli nationalists have protested the plan. The plan could still be derailed if the government does not win passage of a state budget by March 31st -- a failure that would cause its automatic fall from power.

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