Settler protest in Jerusalem
Photo: Avishag Shaar-Yashuv
Settlers protest in Jerusalem - no to additional freeze
Photo: Avishag Shaar-Yashuv
Prime Minister Netanyahu facing mutiny from his own party over freeze deal
Photo: Avishag Shaar Yeshuv
J'lem: Thousands of settlers protest construction freeze
'Protest is only the opening shot in the battle over freeze renewal' says Yesha Council chief; Netanyahu yet to finalize freeze deal

The "largest settler protest since the disengagement" is underway: Thousands of settlers made their way to Jerusalem and are holding a protest against the planned renewal of the settlement construction freeze. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hasn't officially finalized the freeze deal but settlers decided to escalate protests against his policies.


Protestors used slogans from the disengagement: "We will not give up this land" and "the eternal nation is not afraid of the long road ahead". They danced and held signs which read: "We can see your hand, vote no" and "Yes you can – say no".


Later on Sunday, dozens of teenagers who attended the  rally blocked the main entry to Jerusalem for 15 minutes by sitting on Highway 1. They were cleared from the area shortly after and continued protesting at the side of the road.


Two protesters were arrested. Several of the teens attempted to block the road again several yards from the site and were again dispersed.


National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau (Yisrael Beiteinu) left the cabinet meeting and joined the thousands of settlers. Speaking at the protest he said: "He who says he is looking out for Israel's security and at the same time offering to return to the 1967 borders is basically telling Israel to return to the borders which Abba Eban called the Auschwitz borders. Such a demand should be rejected."


Chairman of the Binyamin Regional Council Avi Roeh called on the government not to impose a construction freeze. "We shall not let this matter pass as we did the last time", he said.


"We are loyal to the state, to the Torah, to the Land of Israel and we shall continue to be so," he added.


The protestors, a large number of which are students, are protesting outside the Prime Minister's Office.

Organizers are expecting thousands to take part, including students from the fourth grade and onward – who will be taking a day off from school in order to participate.


All the regional councils and local councils with the exception of the Jordan Valley council are on strike as well as the local schools. However, Jewish cities within the West Bank are not taking part in the strike.


Students at settler protest in jerusalem. (Photo: Noam Moskowitz)


A significant majority of participants among the students were young women who came prepared with notebooks in order to study during the protest. 


Head of the Shomron Regional Council Gershon Mesika said that: "Any surrender to pressure would bring more pressure. We will not forgive anyone who votes in favor of the freeze, we will have our reckoning. From our point of view, the freeze decision is an anti-Zionist and racist decision and we will do everything we can to breach it.


Yesha Council Chairman Danny Dayan told Ynet that if Netanyahu agrees to US demands, it would not be the last freeze. "Netanyahu will be put in a political slaughterhouse, a steaming sauna, where he will be forced to give up the whole of Judea and Samaria.


"Then either he will do it or he won't. I would say that a smart statesman wouldn't put himself in a situation that a clever statesman thinks he can get out of. We want to change the government's direction, not its policies."

Thousands are attending the protest. (Photo: Noam Moskowitz)


Yesha Council Director Naftali Bennett told Ynet: "In the dilemma between resisting pressure and disgrace, the government chose disgrace. Now it will be under even more pressure. The bribe as it's called by former US ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer paints Israel as a country willing to give up its principals and parts of its country for money which we end up not getting anyway. The protest is only the opening shot in the battle. "


'It's only the beginning'

Following the student protests, a far-right element said Sunday this was only the first step in a series of harsh protest measures. "We are going back to the days of the disengagement disillusioned and much less naïve. The further Netanyahu treads the path of deportation and uprooting the more one is expected to see such sites. If our lives do not go back to normal, neither will those of the whole Jewish people."


Another activist promised "this was just the beginning."


"As far as we're concerned the freeze is a window to destroying communities. We've lost our innocence, we no longer believe in politicians or a referendum. If Bibi wants a fight, he'll get a fight."


Asked whether disengagement protest sights are likely to be seen again he replied: "It all depends on what happens now. If Bibi goes for another freeze, there will be a fight. It's early to determine how resolute he will be. We're trying to gather forces at the moment but it's obvious to everyone that if the freeze goes without a fight it will lead to deportation and uprooting."


Yet it isn't only the settlers who are pressuring Netanyahu. Following Likud political pressure Netanyahu decided to hold a meeting in his office on Sunday with party members, 14 of which have already signed a letter against renewing the freeze, in order to calm party tensions and avoid a possible mutiny.


The prime minister who also summoned deputy ministers to the meeting, will try and tell them that the agreement with the Americans and the extension of the construction freeze in the West Bank will be beneficial to the settlers and to Israel, mainly if the US will make a commitment to never demand another freeze.


Yair Altman contributed to this story.



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