Settlers demonstrate for referendum on West Bank, Gaza pullout

[JURIST] Tens of thousands of Israeli settlers gathered in Jerusalem Sunday evening at the start of a scheduled 24-hour protest against a plan by Israeli Prime Minister Arial Sharon to remove all 21 Israeli settlements from Gaza and four smaller settlements from the West Bank this summer. The settlers, organized by the Yesha Settlers Council [official website] are protesting what they regard as an arbitrary decision to relocate several hundred thousand Jews out of the settlements inside Palestinian territory and are calling for the measure to be put to a national referendum. The plan to remove the settlements is part of the broader peace plan between Israel and the newly elected Palestinian presidency. Sharon will receive a formal report in the next week or two on the legality of the outposts. According to the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot [official website in Hebrew], the report, commissioned by Sharon in July of 2004, documents a ten-year policy of financing illegal settlements by Israeli citizens in Palestinian territory, despite the repeated objections of multiple Israeli attorneys general. The report concludes that despite the illicit government funding and support, the outposts were never approved, and remain illegal under Israeli law. The finding of the report is crucial to Sharon's intentions to remove 21 settlements from Gaza and 4 smaller ones from the West Bank sometime this summer. Canadian Press has more. From Israel, Haaretz has local coverage.

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