Dozens of Jewish settlers have been arrested after attempting to establish new settlements in the administered territories in protest over the Israeli government’s peace initiatives.
Most of those arrested remained in custody because they refused to sign a paper saying they would refrain from repeating their activities.
Earlier in the week, leaders of the new group, known as Zu Artzeinu, or This Is Our Land, held a news conference where they vowed to establish 130 new settlements, the equivalent of one a day, Sundays through Thursdays.
They said they would attempt to put up the new settlements next to those already in existence. They are calling their endeavor “Operation Duplication.”
These group’s leaders said that each of the new settlements – which would double the number of existing settlements in the territories – would be named after a Jewish victim of Arab terrorism.
On both Wednesday and Thursday nights, Israeli security forces forcibly removed settlers from two locals where they had tried to implement their plans.
These group of 50 arrested Wednesday night were trying to establish a settlement near the West Bank town of Kiryat Arba, near Hebron.
Thirty-five of those detained refused to sign the document that would enable them to be released from jail, even after a Jerusalem magistrate ordered them released on their own recognizance if they refrained from entering any “closed military zone.”
They also resisted being fingerprinted.
On Thursday night, a second group was arrested trying to create a settlement in a windswept valley near Bat Ayin, one of the large group of settlements comprising Gush Etzion, just south of Bethlehem.
Observers said the vigor of the Israel Defense Force action shows that Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who is also defense minister, has ordered a tough policy to prevent many new settlements being established without authorization.
On Thursday night, reporters covering the event were physically driven off by soldiers who declared the entire area closed.
These Jerusalem Magistrates Court ordered that the detainees be held for 48 hours following their refusal to abide by the military orders to stay out of closed areas.
“We have to show the world, and especially this country (and) our own fellow Jews, that we are alive and well, we’re excited, we’re building, we’re growing,” Shmuel Sackett, a spokesman for the group, told Israel Radio.
“We’re not hiding under our beds, and we’re certainly not running away taking some sort of compensation payments,” he said.
Members of the group said they would employ passive resistance in the face of evacuation orders.
Joining the settlers at the news conference earlier in the week were the leaders of a new group of immigrants from the former Soviet Union established to protest the government’s peace policies.
The leaders included some well-known former Soviet prisoners of Zion: Ida Nudel, Yosef Mendelevich and Yosef Begun.