A group of prominent rabbis has called upon Israeli soldiers to refuse orders to evacuate Jews from Gaza. If the Gaza disengagement plan goes through the Knesset, many soldiers will face a bewildering dilemma, as they must choose between the orders of their commanding officers and the orders of their religious authorities.
With opposition mounting among settlers and in his own Likud Party, Ariel Sharon's political future and the fate of his plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank may be decided in the Knesset next week.
The Israeli prime minister hopes to win a decisive majority in the Oct. 26 vote on his disengagement plan, laying to rest the debate over its legitimacy and blocking growing pressure for a nationwide referendum. But a victory is not a foregone conclusion, and if he loses, it's difficult to see how Sharon can continue as prime minister.
On the eve of the Jewish New Year, Israel's national discourse was dominated by talk of potential civil war, but few of those talking dared define the possible dimensions of such a conflict.
Would it mean confrontations between soldiers and civilians? Would it be limited to the extreme margins of the settler movement? Could it really present a threat to the very existence of the State of Israel, as Knesset member Yossi Sarid suggested?
Ariel Sharon has been weighing the options for his government and "disengagement plan" since his humiliating defeat at last week's Likud Party convention, but none of the alternatives looks particularly good.
Few doubt that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan has the potential to become a watershed event in Middle Eastern politics, and it already is causing major upheavals in both internal Israeli and Palestinian politics.
The Likud Party vote earlier this month against Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan may have been a defining moment in Israeli politics -- but not in the way the ostensible winners, Likud hawks and the Israeli settler movement, had hoped.
Paradoxically, the Likud's rejection of the Gaza Strip withdrawal seems to have sparked a huge backlash that could help the Israeli prime minister push his plan through.
In announcing a plan to evacuate nearly all of the Jewish communities in the Gaza Strip, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is signaling that he's serious about creating large blocs of Palestinian territory free of Israelis -- and that he is willing to gamble with his political future.
It would be hard to exaggerate how fateful, how historic is the drama about to begin at the settlement outposts. Here's where things stand:
Within a few months, we will pretty well know if Israel's 36-year occupation of the West Bank and Gaza will be on its way out or here to stay.