Settler movement launches massive anti-pullout demonstration near Knesset - Organizers say 24-hour protest will be biggest ever against disengagement (HA´ARETZ NEWS) By Nadav Shragai and Amos Harel 01/31/05)
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Tens of thousands of anti-disengagement protesters gathered in
Jerusalem yesterday evening for what they hope will be the largest
demonstration yet against Prime Minister Ariel Sharon´s pullout plan.
The protest rally is slated to last 24 hours.
No official figures on the number of people in attendance were
released, but Channel 1 television reported that some 150,000 people
were there and organizers said close to quarter of a million.
Protesters, who are demanding that the pullout plan be put to a
national referendum, massed near the Knesset as a helicopter hovered
overhead, and security was tightened around Sharon´s office nearby.
The plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and portions of the northern
West Bank has roused fears of violent confrontations.
The head of the Yesha settlers council, Bentzi Lieberman, told the
crowd that "when an Israeli government wants to go through with such
a difficult process, involving the expulsion of people from their
homes, it can´t do this in a fearful and capricious way, but should
carry it out in a true democratic fashion so that it might be
acceptable." Yesha is the Hebrew acronym for the West Bank and Gaza.
Likud rebel leader Uzi Landau also spoke at the rally. "We demand a
referendum; let the nation decide," he said. "One can support the
disengagement or be against it, but we must agree on the rules of the
democratic game .... Ariel Sharon, you have no mandate to evacuate
Likud MK David Levy told the demonstrators that Sharon´s government
is guilty of incitement against the right wing more so than any other
in the history of Israel, and that it could be responsible for a rift
among the people.
"We say this now in Jerusalem, Israel´s eternal capitol, in front of
the parliament: Such a thing as this has never happened, the voice of
the majority is not being heard," Levy said.
Former cabinet minister Binyamin Elon, fired by Sharon after he voted
against the proposal in cabinet, called on the prime minister to
resign, saying: "This people is loyal to its land and will not let
you uproot them."
Settler leader Pinhas Wallerstein said the highlight of the gathering
would be a mass pledge to go to Gaza to prevent the evacuation.
Brigadier General Shimon Koren, deputy commander of the Jerusalem
police district, said forces were on hand and ready to handle any
illegal activities planned by radical right-wing activists.
Some 2,000 members of the Jerusalem Police, reinforced by teams from
other districts, were deployed in the streets surrounding the Knesset
and the Prime Minister´s Office.
Other emergency forces, including fire fighters and paramedics, were
also stationed at the site of the demonstration.
While polls show the disengagement plan has the support of most
Israelis, and Western countries see it as a possible step toward
peace with the Palestinians, many settlers say it will sacrifice a
"I don´t know if this [protest] will help but at least we can express
how we feel and we hope we will not be ignored," said Galit Kahane, a
"This situation will lead us to the brink of civil war," said Yair
Kali, 48, of the West Bank settlement of Psagot. (© Copyright 2005
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