“The disengagement will be carried out according to the timetable that has been determined by the government and approved by the Knesset,” he said.

Prominent settler leader Pinhas Wallerstein called for those affected by the pullout to break through army roadblocks and barricade themselves in their homes, even if it means going to jail.

The influential Yesha settlers’ council has expressed its “solidarity” with Wallerstein’s call for civil disobedience.

In a letter sent to settlements, Wallerstein called for non-violent action mass protests and asked settlers to be prepared to “pay the price of mass imprisonment.”

Threats of civil disobedience have sent a political shockwave through the Jewish state, where security officials have voiced fears ultra-nationalist settlers could clash with soldiers during evacuation.

At the centre of the dispute is a bill passing through the Israeli parliament which aims to regulate the evacuation of 8,000 settlers from all 21 settlements in Gaza and four isolated enclaves in the northern West Bank.

It establishes compensation sums for settlers and punishments, in the form of hefty fines or sentences up to five years, the Israeli government will be able to mete out to those failing to obey the law.

“I understand the pain, developments are painful for me too, but they are necessary. I am certain that we will do everything in order to uphold the law,” President Sharon said.

Backed by a majority of Israelis, President Sharon believes his plan would extricate Israel from a tiny territory without strategic or economic value.

For their part, Palestinians fear the plan is a ruse to abandon impoverished Gaza at the cost of a stronger Israeli grip on the West Bank.

Both territories were captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

At a peace conference in Gaza, sponsors of the internationally-backed roadmap peace plan insisted the pullout scheme must not replace a more comprehensive settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian problem.

But the controversial plan has been fiercely opposed by many of Sharon’s traditional supporters, leading to the crumbling of his coalition and leaving him without a parliamentary majority for the past six months.

But political options to block the plan are narrowing.

The governing Likud Party is close to signing a deal with the opposition Labour party that would give Sharon the political clout necessary to see the withdrawal through.

Talks had hit a final snag involving Labour leader Shimon Peres, slated to become a second deputy prime minister.

Labour wants Peres to be authorised to fill as acting premier when Sharon is away or incapacitated, but Israeli law only allows for one such post, currently held by Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Likud.