JERUSALEM -- Israel's opposition leader said yesterday his Labor Party will not join the government unless Prime Minister Ariel Sharon agreed to negotiate a planned Gaza evacuation with the Palestinians and accompany it with a large-scale West Bank withdrawal.
In the West Bank, Israeli troops used tear gas and clubs to disperse several hundred Palestinians protesting the construction of a security barrier, witnesses said. The army said the soldiers fired tear gas after the crowd started throwing stones.
The demands by the former prime minister, Shimon Peres, which are unlikely to be met, could threaten Sharon's efforts to shore up his fragile government or could be a bargaining tactic to gain more Cabinet ministries in a coalition agreement.
Sharon had been widely expected to ask Labor to join his government after he fired two hard-line ministers and a third resigned in recent weeks in a dispute over the Gaza withdrawal plan. That leaves him with 59 supporters in the 120-member parliament.
Labor, which holds 21 seats, has provided Sharon a ''safety net," blocking no-confidence motions to bring down the government, but neither Labor nor Sharon's Likud Party have publicly committed themselves to a national unity government.
Peres said yesterday Sharon must accept a wide-ranging withdrawal from the West Bank, which Israel conquered in the 1967 Middle East War.
''My vision . . . is for a return to the 1967 borders with minor adjustments for security and Jewish settlements," Peres said. He did not elaborate.
But Sharon has promised to strengthen major West Bank settlements -- not evacuate them -- as part of his plan. That plan calls for a withdrawal from only four isolated enclaves in the West Bank.
Some 230,000 Israeli settlers live amid more than 2 million Palestinians in the West Bank. Palestinians demand a full withdrawal from all of Gaza and the West Bank.
Peres also said Sharon must change the nature of his unilateral withdrawal plan by negotiating directly with Palestinian officials.