With Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip scheduled to begin on Aug. 15, escalating right-wing and settler protests threaten to plunge the country into anarchy and could provoke a strong anti-settler backlash.
Protesters last week blocked major highways, poured oil and scattered spikes across a busy road; occupied buildings in Gaza, and threw stones at Palestinians and Israel Defense Forces soldiers. The army and police responded by temporarily declaring the Gaza Strip a closed military zone, ejecting the extremists from occupied buildings and making dozens of arrests.
In an unprecedented spate of interviews and public statements, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon condemned what he called the "hooliganism" of the far right, and vowed that he would not be deterred by it.
However, will authorities be able to maintain law and order in the face of even more extreme protest plans?
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.