Gush Emunim, Sheli Launch Offensives on the Future of the West Bank

The militant right-wing Gush Emunim and the doveish leftwing Shell faction both launched political offensives today in support of their diametrically opposed views on the future of the West Bank. The Gush, which is supported by Orthodox religious and ultra-nationalist elements, staged a march through the Samaria region to mark 10 years of Israeli occupation.

Leaders of the recently formed Sheli group met with West Bank Arab leaders to stress that “there are other Israelis” who oppose the continued occupation of Arab territory. The latter included Sheli leader Arye Eliav, Moked leader Meir Payil and Ruth Dayan, the former wife of former Defense Minister Moshe Dayan. They met with the mayors of Nablus and Tulkarem.

The Gush Emunim march, heavily guarded by Israeli troops, drew about 20,000 participants. It ended with a mass rally between Kalkilya and Nablus where the militants laid the cornerstone for a new town they hope to establish in the heart of Arab territory. The Gush leaders promised the army, however, that they would not use the occasion of the march to try to set up an illegal settlement.

The march was generally peaceful except near Nablus where some local residents protested and threw stones at the Israeli soldiers. Several protestors were arrested.

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