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Rightwing Politicians Hold Israel Independence Day Rally in West Bank

Rightwing politicians denounced the idea of an international conference for Middle East peace at an Independence Day rally in the West Bank settlement of Ariel Monday. Gush Emunim activists marched around Jericho and vowed to “swallow up” the Arab town with a Jewish settlement on the ancient site.

But apart from those events, politics were temporarily shelved on Israel’s 39th Independence Day while most Israelis enjoyed the sun at beaches and picnic grounds.

Ariel was selected for the Likud rally apparently because Laborite Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin remarked a week ago that it and another West Bank settlement, Alfe-Menashe, were of no security value to Israel. Speakers included the Minister of Commerce and Industry Ariel Sharon and Deputy Premier and Housing Minister David Levy.

Both inveighed against an international conference on grounds that it represented a mortal danger to Israel. They were joined by Yigael Hurwitz, a former Likud Finance Minister whose one-man Ometz party is now affiliated with Labor.

The Gush Emunim chose Jericho for their demonstration because it is located close to the Jordan border and has been mentioned over the years as a possible bargaining chip in negotiations with Jordan.

“In the future we will swallow up Arab Jericho as Tel Aviv has swallowed up the Arab town of Jaffa,” a Gush Emunim spokesman told Israel Radio.

The Gush Emunim had scheduled a demonstration at Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus but were prevented by soldiers from reaching the site to avoid friction with the local Arab populace.

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