An Israeli court has issued what appears to be the first indictment against a protester since Jewish settlers launched their latest wave of demonstrations against Israel’s peace initiatives with the Palestinians.
The Rehovot Magistrates Court found Moshe Feiglin guilty of disorderly conduct and ordered him to pay a $3,300 fine or face a 10-month prison sentence. He was also given a six-month suspended prison sentence.
Feiglin is a leader of the right-wing group Zo Artzeinu, or “This is Our Land.”
The group organized protests Tuesday in which right-wing Israelis engaged in shoving matches with police and blocked road throughout Israel, causing traffic jams during the evening rush hour.
Police spokesman Eric Bar-Chen said Feiglin had been arrested after refusing a police order to move out of the street.
He said 25 demonstrators remained in detention of the 150 arrested Tuesday. Others may have charged pressed against them, he said.
Feiglin, slapped with the fine a day after the demonstrations, said he would not pay.
“We have entered a stage of real passive civil disobedience, where you’re willing to accept the price of what you do. I’d rather sit in jail” than pay the fine, Feiglin told Israel Radio in a telephone interview from his home in the West Bank Jewish settlement Karnei Shomron.
“I believe this is the right thing to do,” he added.
Meanwhile, some opposition members criticized the demonstrators for blocking roads.
Rafael Eitan, leader of the far-right Tsomet Party, said the disruption of traffic could alienate Israelis previously sympathetic to the settlers’ stance.
Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu said he understood the motives behind the demonstrators’ effort, but they had to remain within the bounds of the law.
Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said the protesters could not force changes in government policy through their actions.
“These are issues for the Knesset and the Knesset alone to decide,” he said. “You cannot lie on the road and say `We replace the Knesset.'”
Despite the warnings, settlers resumed their demonstrations on hilltops in the West Bank on Wednesday.
Police removed demonstrators from a site near Karnei Tsur after a confrontation earlier with local Palestinians.
In another development, the Council of Jewish Settlements in Judea and Samaria asked police to find those responsible for distributing anti-settler bumper stickers during an rally in Tel Aviv against French plans for nuclear testing.
The bumper stickers read, “Don’t Remove Settlers, Shoot Them in the Head.”