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SLUG: 2-325181 Israel/Gaza Pullout (L)
TITLE=ISRAEL/GAZA PULLOUT (L-Only)
HEADLINE: Israeli Public Support for Gaza Pullout Plunges
INTRO: Israeli public support for the government's planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip this summer is declining. And as Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, that's giving Jewish settlers a boost.
TEXT: A new poll shows Israeli public support for the Gaza pullout has plunged to 53 percent, a drop of 16 points since February. Another poll earlier this week put support for the withdrawal at just 48 percent. Pollsters say many Israelis are fed up with the turmoil over the plan, which is dividing the nation.
People are also concerned about warnings from senior defense officials, who have gone public with doomsday scenarios. First, the outgoing Israeli army chief predicted that the pullout would be followed by a new wave of Palestinian terror. The latest warning comes from the outgoing head of the Shin Bet security service, Avi Dichter. He fears Jewish militants might open fire on troops during the Gaza evacuation, or worse, they could attempt a suicide attack to kill Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Former Jerusalem police commander Arieh Amit.
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"We have, I'm afraid, a bigger quantity of crazy people, who will not have any problem to decide to assassinate Prime Minister Sharon, in order to stop the process."
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It's happened before. Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in 1995 by a religious Jew, opposed to his hand-over of biblical land to the Palestinians.
These dire predictions have eroded support for the withdrawal, which is due to begin in just two months. But the plunging polls are good news for the settlers, who believe it is still possible to block the pullout. Settlement activist Eve Harrow:
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"And, I think that, if enough of us get out there and demonstrate in any legal way that we can, that we can hopefully stop this."
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Prime Minister Sharon has vowed that the withdrawal will begin on schedule in mid-August. (SIGNED)
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