Right-wing Settlers End Protest with March to East Jerusalem

Several thousand right-wing Jewish settlers and followers wrapped up a five-day protest Thursday against the government’s peace policies by marching into the Arab areas of eastern Jerusalem in a show of their resolve not to support any territorial compromise.

A heavy police presence surrounded the estimated 3,000 marchers, as they left the Rose Garden, near the Knesset and opposite the Prime Minister’s Office, where they have staged a sit-in strike since the beginning of the week.

The protesters angered police as they blocked traffic opposite the Prime Minister’s Office before beginning their march.

A day earlier, the demonstrators had clashed with police during a rowdy protest against a statement made in the Knesset by Avraham Shohat, minister of finance.

Shohat said he would not encourage major investment in the Golan Heights at this time, leading the settlers to infer that the government was all but abandoning the Heights and planned to return them to Syria in a land-for-peace deal.

Shohat, responding to a question from hawkish Labor Knesset member Eli Goldschmidt, said his comment in the Golan was his only his “personal view.”

Shohat said potential investors had considered plowing “hundreds of millions of shekels” into projects on the Golan, but he, “being honest and straightforward,” had not felt able to encourage them to do so.

Thursday’s march drew fewer demonstrators than hoped for by those on the political right.

Earlier in the day, scores of protesters came to the Mahane Yehuda open-air produce market–a traditional hard-line stronghold — and tried to convince vendors and shoppers to join in the march.

However, reactions were mixed, with many saying the protest was worthless, since deals with the Arabs would be struck regardless of public reaction.

The central message of the weeklong demonstration has been that Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin lacks the authority or popular mandate from the people to give up land under Israeli control to the Arabs.

“Rabin, you have no mandate,” has become the mantra of the hard-line opposition.

Nissim Zvilli, Labor Party secretary-general, said Thursday that the government would not neglect “the streets and leave it to the Right.”

Speaking at the Labor Party Central Committee, Zvilli said that the party would organize public events to promote the cause of peace.

“We pray that there will not be an anti-democratic outburst against democratic decisions,” Zvilli said.

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