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Sharon: Israel on Eve of 'Civil War'
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suggested the Jewish state is in crisis and appears to be on the "eve of a civil war" as his goverment moves to remove 8,000 Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip.
In his most ominous comments about the level of tension in his country as it seeks to end Jewish settlements in the Gaza strip later this summer, Sharon said his government's decision is meeting angry resistance.
In an exclusive interview with NBC News, Sharon – in Crawford, Texas Monday for talks with President Bush – told correspondent David Gregory point-blank he expects settlers to rebel "before and during" the withdrawal.
"One should not underestimate the tension here, the atmosphere here. It looks like on the eve of a civil war," Sharon said.
The danger is so grave, in fact, that Sharon says for the first time, he has security in place to keep him alive.
"All my life I was defending [the] life of Jews," he said, in reply to a question of whether he feared for his own life. "Now, for [the] first time, security steps are taken to protect me from Jews."
The White House says the Gaza withdrawal is vital to building a lasting peace in the region. But the Jewish settlers aren't eager to abandon their homes, as well as land they believe rightfully belongs to Israel.
And, Sharon's government is adding on to other Jewish settlements, another sore point for the administration – especially, NBC News reported, "in the sprawling settlement known as Ma' aleh Adumim."
The Bush administration believes that is "a direct violation" of Washington's demand to halt such construction. But Sharon shrugged off the question.
"We don't build any new Jewish communities. We don't build there," the Israeli leader told NBC.
When pressed about plans for new houses, Sharon said, "People live there. There are no new communities that are built or added. Arabs live everywhere, Jews live everywhere."
In another worrisome development, Sharon said he has no doubt that Iran is moving toward building a nuclear device.
He told NBC News that diplomacy was having little effect in altering Iran's policy, and was "buying [the] Iranians time."
Sharon said Israel was considering "seriously about all those steps that could save Israel if the Iranians will be able to do it . . ."
Refusing to rule out a military option against Iran, Sharon said Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons was not just Israel's problem.
"It's a problem of the free world," he