Thousands gear up for anti-freeze protest in J'lem

Thousands gear up for an

Thousands of protesters are expected to throng Jerusalem's Paris Square on Wednesday evening to beg the government to immediately rescind the 10-month moratorium on new Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria. "I'm sure that the magnitude of the participants in the rally will convey to the White House, the State Department and the Prime Minister's Office in Israel the determination that we have to abolish this draconian decree," said Dani Dayan, who heads the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip. Council members have held emergency meetings almost daily since the moratorium was announced close to two weeks ago. They have torn up the IDF injunctions stopping new construction, and settlers have stood at the gates of their communities to thwart civil administration inspectors trying to issue stop work orders. But Wednesday's rally is the first organized mass protest event intended to let the government know the depth of the public opposition. "We want to deliver a message to the Likud ministers that what they did is awful and unacceptable. This is not what we expected from a right-wing government. We will struggle against it," said Gush Etzion Regional Council head Shaul Goldstein, who is a member of the Likud Party. Parliamentarians from the Likud, Shas, Habayit Hayehudi, the National Union and Israel Beiteinu were expected to speak, as were settler leaders. As of press time, no ministers had been added to the platform. Organizers told The Jerusalem Post that ministers could not be expected at this time to take such a strong stand against the government. The rally, which is taking place under the banner "Breaking the Freeze," is more of a grassroots initiative, organizers said. Throughout the day Tuesday, settler leaders worked to get the message out to their constituents that attendance mattered. Ma'aleh Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel, who is also a member of the Likud, said that in his city, organizers had posted flyers and were working to drum up support. "We hope that people will not be afraid of the weather," said Kashriel, concerned that rain might drive people away. "We want the Israeli public to understand that we are fighting for our homes," Kashriel said. In the Efrat settlement, where organizers were also trying to sign people up for the rally, council head Oded Raviv said he understood that in the aftermath of the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, people had questioned the effectiveness of such rallies. "But I think that in a democratic society, this is one of the few ways that we can express our opposition," he said.