peace now settlement rally 311.
(photo credit: MELANIE LIDMAN)
Thirty Peace Now activists gathered in front of the Prime Minister’s Residence
on Sunday afternoon for a last-minute expression of opposition to the end of the
10-month construction moratorium in the West Bank.
The slogan for the
protest was “Building in the Settlements will destroy Israel.”
though it’s clear to everyone that the right thing to do is to freeze the
construction, regretfully, the government is not demonstrating that they
understand,” Yariv Oppenheimer, the general-director of Peace Now, told The
. “Maybe the prime minister is just checking to see what will
happen, but I’m worried that this check-up is coming at the expense of the
state’s best interests.”
Peace Now estimates that 2,066 housing units can
be started once the moratorium ends, and more than 11,000 units need only the
approval of the local municipality.
Activists tried to engage passersby
in dialogue about the issues for about two hours before politicians and Peace
Now leaders took to the microphone to protest the impending end of the freeze,
pleading for “just three more months.”
Speakers included Alon Liel, a
former director-general of the Foreign Ministry, and former Meretz MKs Mossi Raz
and Ran Cohen.
“This is a critical day,” Cohen said. “Now the road to
peace seems open, and we don’t need to close it.”
He urged Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu to “look deep inside himself and see what’s good for Israel
and make the right decision.”
“If we continue building, blood will be
spilled, this will not go quietly,” Raz warned the crowd.
period of 10 months was one of the quietest since 1967,” he said
“Yes, there were incidents, and there will be more incidents, but
here we don’t have a choice between really good and really bad. We can choose
the option that’s the least bad.
And that’s what we need to
Across the street from the Peace Now protest a lone
counter-protester waved a giant Israeli flag and chanted, “They want to build,
yes, they will build!” during much of the speeches.
“I came so someone
could remind them where they live,” said Tal Semo, 27, a resident of the Nili
settlement east of Modi’in who has been living with his parents and planned to
start construction on his own home at midnight.
“It’s enough, this nation
chose a specific government with a specific agenda. And they think just because
they get money from Europe they can change what we want to do with the country,”
Though the Peace Now supporters seemed mostly resigned to the
idea that the freeze would end, many held on to a shred of hope that something
would change in the few hours before the moratorium was due to end.
has to be a country where our grandchildren can live,” said activist Dr. Nechama
Ben-Eliahu, whose granddaughter was one of 17 people killed by a Hamas suicide
bomber on a No. 14A Egged bus in the capital’s Jaffa Road on June 11,
“I would like to be optimistic, but I’m not. I hope the prime
minister will find the necessary mental strength to do the right thing,”