Prime Minister Ariel Sharon urged North American Jews to support his disengagement plan Sunday night, explaining that he had asked the Jewish Agency to use its settlement programs in the Negev and Galilee to help relocate settlers from the Gaza Strip.
The agency has agreed and its Board of Governors is set to discuss the matter on Monday when it meets, said Michael Jankelowitz, an agency spokesman.
Sharon spoke at Hebrew University to members of the Jewish Agency annual assembly, which this year is celebrating its 75th anniversary and the 100th year since the death of Theodor Herzl.
"Following approval of the disengagement plan, the government approached the Jewish Agency to help relocate families in the Negev and the Galilee," he said.
The disengagement plan will improve Israel's diplomatic standing, provide security, and give a boost to the economy, Sharon said. "It provides a primary response to the demographic balance. Above all, it gives the people of Israel hope for a better future. Do not underestimate the power of hope," he said.
He highlighted the new program for education reform, calling it the largest such effort since the state's inception.
"At the same time, we started a joint project with the Jewish Agency to encourage Jewish youth to come and live in Israel for a long period of time," he said. The government has authorized NIS 15 million to jump start a program for Jewish college students from around the world to study here for a semester starting in the fall. That sum is likely to increase to $50 million within the next five years.
Sharon also spoke of the importance of immigration.
Earlier in the day Immigration Absorption Minister Tzipi Livni and MK Haim Ramon (Labor) told assembly members that disengagement is necessary to preserve the Jewish nature of the state.
If a two-state solution is not reached soon, the Palestinians will shift their tactics and start arguing for a one-state solution, a dangerous move given that Jews are losing the demographic war, they said.
Ramon said that if one looks at the area from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River, 53 percent of the population is Jewish, while non-Jews, mostly Palestinians, make us the remainder. Within the next decade, the Palestinians will be the majority in the area.
"The minute they have a majority, they will demand only one thing one person, one vote. That is all. They will send a delegation to the United States Congress and tell them that what was good for [former South African president] Nelson Mandela is good for us," Ramon said.
It's an argument that is hard to refuse, he added. It is a simple choice between holding on to the greater land of Israel and a Jewish state.
Livni said that she isn't sure that disengagement will work. "Maybe what we are doing is a mistake, but what are the alternatives? When I look at the future, even though I have to be optimistic, I do not see the numbers changing dramatically," she said.
Israel doesn't have the luxury of time. It can't afford to wait and see if the situation improves on its own from both from the demographic perspective and in light of its standing within the international community, she said.
Today, "no one expects Israel to give the right to vote to the Palestinians, but that is correct only when the international community still believes in the two-state solution," she said.
But should they looked at the area between the Mediterranean and the Jordan as one state, that will no longer be true, she said.
Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's strategy is to wait, because time is working for the Palestinians as a result of the demographic issue, she said.
Israel has to act unilaterally both when it comes to leaving Gaza and when it comes to building a security fence to prevent terrorist bombings, Ramon said.
During the first unity government, there was a belief that both the fence and a plan of action needed a partner, now Sharon and politicians in the Likud and Labor understand action has to be taken even without a partner, he said.