TEL AVIV (Aug. 12)
Opponents of the Labor government’s policies in the Middle East peace talks concluded a five-day series of demonstrations this week with a rally that attracted some 70,000 protesters.
The rally, sponsored by West Bank settlers and right-wing supporters, including an American-based group, was held Wednesday night in Clore Park, between Tel Aviv and Jaffa, to protest what they view as a land-for-peace giveaway by the Rabin government.
Among the speakers were two former army chiefs of staff, Gens. Ariel Sharon and Rafael Eitan, both of whom spoke of the strategic importance of the Golan Heights for Israel’s security.
The rally organizers, the American-based World Committee for Israel and Israeli right-wing groups, had originally planned a mass torchlight procession along the Tel Aviv seashore promenade to Labor Party headquarters opposite the Dan Hotel.
But they were prevented from doing so by the police, who said it would cause massive traffic jams and security risks in the tourist and cafe-restaurant area.
Police officials instead gave the organizers permission to hold the rally in a nearby park.
Among the entertainers were popular Israeli singer Yoram Gaon and an American singer, Avraham Fried.
The protesters denounced the ban on marching to Labor headquarters, saying it was their “natural right” to demonstrate there.
Two of the protesters did, however, manage to get into the building by showing guards at the door a piece of paper purporting to be written permission to meet with a senior party official in his top-floor office.
Once inside the building, the two unfurled long banners denouncing Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and suspended them down the front of the building.
NO MANDATE TO TALK WITH PLO
The signs, written in Hebrew, said, “Rabin has no mandate to speak with the PLO” and “Labor led by Meretz is purifying the unclean,” a sarcastic swipe at the coalition government, which includes the dovish Meretz bloc.
The banners were soon removed by the police, who took the two into custody, charging them with trespassing.
The Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza organized the five days of protests, during which they and their followers lived in a tent camp in the seaside Charles Clore Park.
Earlier in the week they had staged a mock landing of “Palestinians returning to their ancestral homeland” — Jews costumed as Palestinians — on the Tel Aviv shoreline to show what they believe will happen should the Rabin government’s policies be implemented.
In what was one of their final demonstrations, protesters boarded buses Wednesday evening and traveled to the Ramat Aviv home of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
Rabin’s neighbors, complaining about the incursion into their quiet neighborhood, told police the prime minister was not home and had not been living there for some weeks, as structural repairs were being carried out on the house.
They asked why a demonstration by “well-armed individuals” had been allowed at all.
Many of the torch-bearing demonstrators were carrying rifles or automatic weapons.
The demonstrators said they would leave the Rabin residence and move on to Foreign Minister Shimon Peres’ nearby home.
The police pointed out they had no permission to demonstrate at that address either. The settlers then boarded their chartered buses and returned to their tented camp.
Settlement leaders said they will plan additional high-profile demonstrations in the future “until we shake Rabin from his shaky prime ministerial chair.”