PM: No Opposition to MK Approval for Egypt's Gaza Deployment

Sharon says he believes that most MKs would vote for Egyptian troops on Philadelphi Route after pullout.

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Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Tuesday that he has no opposition to seeking Knesset approval for the deployment of Egyptian troops along the Philadelphi Route, which runs the length of the Gaza Strip border, once Israel has withdrawn from Gaza this summer.

In the wake of a High Court of Justice petition demanding a Knesset debate on the issue, Sharon said Knesset agreement on the matter is important to him.

Nevertheless, Sharon did not specifically say he would bring the matter before the Knesset plenum for a vote.

According to the agreement, Egypt will deploy 750 border guards on the Egyptian side of the Gaza border.

"I have no problem with holding a debate in the Knesset if that is what is wanted. This seems reasonable to me. What is important to me is that there most certainly be agreement in the Knesset - and I believe there will be - on the deployment of Egyptian forces," Sharon said after meeting with President Moshe Katsav at his residence.

Sharon noted that the Eygptian forces that will be stationed opposite Rafah will help curb smuggling in the area and will not pose a threat to Israel's security.

The High Court of Justice petition was put forward by members of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Yuval steinitz (Likud) and Dani Yatom (Labor) following a decision by Attorney General Meni Mazuz that the treaty does not need to be ratified by the Knesset.

The petitioners claim that allowing Egyptian soldiers near the Rafah border constitutes a major change to the Israel-Eygpt peace treaty. In a Likud party meeting Steinitz called on Sharon not to sacrifice the peace treaty on the disengagement alter.

Steinitz said the presence of the Eygptian army near the Philadelphi route will threaten the nearby Jewish settlement of Perach Sinai and be a strategic mistake "for which we shall be judged by history."

The Chairman of the Constitution, Law and Justice committee, MK Michael Eitan (Likud) said that because the Knesset ratified the origianl peace treaty it also needs to authorize any changes to it.

"If the argument that allowing Egyptian soldiers to placed near the border is justified then let it be put before the Knesset. If you haven't got a majority to support such a proposal, then don't go through with the changes," said Eitan.

Shinui decided in a party meeting to call on Sharon to bring the treaty before the Knesset on the grounds that any changes to a signed peace treaty need to be approved by the Knesset. However, the party also voted in favor of allowing the Eygptian troop redeployment in order to support the disengagement plan.

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