Israel OKs Egypt control of Gaza border

Israel's parliament on Wednesday approved a plan to post Egyptian troops on the Gaza border, setting the stage for an Israeli military pullout from the sensitive coastal frontier it has held for 38 years.

But the stormy debate over giving up control to a former enemy and the possibility of Palestinian arms smuggling added fuel to the rivalry between Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and hard-liner Benjamin Netanyahu.

The parliamentary vote was not close - 53 to 28. It came as Netanyahu, who quit the Cabinet just three weeks ago, opened a campaign to unseat Sharon as the leader of the ruling Likud Party, reports SFGate.

The split in Israel's largest party has called into question whether Sharon's government can live out its term until November 2006.

Netanyahu criticized Sharon for freezing a plan to construct 3,650 homes in the three-mile corridor between Jerusalem and Maaleh Adumim, Israel's largest West Bank settlement. "He has created a precedent that will lead to the division of Jerusalem," Netanyahu said.

Sharon said this week that more settlements would be dismantled under a final peace agreement. But he hopes to keep Israeli control over Maaleh Adumim and at least two other settlement blocs.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said Wednesday that all settlements "should be removed, from the first stone to the last stone," informs the AP

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