Jewish settlers continued a third straight day of protests in the West Bank hills on Wednesday as Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin called their campaign against an expected expansion of Palestinian self-rule an attempt to tear apart society.
At Givat Hadagan, a hillside located near the West Bank settlement of Efrat, police arrested more than 100 settlers who returned to the site to renew demonstrations that had taken place there the two previous days.
Similar protests took place Wednesday on hillsides near the West Bank settlements of Beit El and Kedumim.
Among those arrested was Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, a former New Yorker who serves as the spiritual leader of the Efrat community.
Several hundred demonstrators gathered outside the Russian Compound in Jerusalem on Wednesday night to protest his detention there along with other leaders of the protest.
Israeli police, some of them on horseback, reportedly clashed with settlers who broke down barricades in an attempt to free Riskin.
About a dozen settlers were arrested.
In the Knesset, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin lashed out at the protesters, accusing them of causing a growing rift in Israeli society. He also attacked the settlers for drawing police and army troops away from other necessary duties.
“I consider these efforts an attempt to tear the nation apart,” Rabin said, adding that the settlers represented “a small minority telling lies about giving up land that threatens the security of the people.”
Settler leaders, meanwhile, complained that the ongoing negotiations with the Palestinians were creating fear and anxiety over what their future would be.
Under the terms of the autonomy accord, no Jewish settlements will be dismantled during the interim stage of self-rule.
The fate of the settlements are supposed to be determined during the so-called “final status” negotiations, slated to begin in 1996.