Thousands rally in J'lem against parley

Sderot activist: Annapolis will bring rockets to Jerusalem; settler rabbi blasts 'opium of peace.'

anti-annap demo jlem  (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
anti-annap demo jlem
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
Any Israeli concessions that would be forged in Annapolis would make Jerusalem and the center of the country vulnerable to the kind of Palestinian-launched rocket attacks that the border city of Sderot has endured for years, Sderot resident Alon Davidi said on Monday night. "Your actions in Annapolis will cause rockets to rain on Jerusalem," Davidi warned Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as he looked out at thousands of right-wing protesters who packed Paris Square in Jerusalem. "You have sacrificed Sderot and now you want to sacrifice the rest of the country," Davidi said. "There is a moment in the life of a nation when you have to say, enough is enough." The prime minister, Davidi said, "is disconnected from the nation, but we are united." Shouting out "no" to a divided Jerusalem and "yes" to the construction of more settlements and Jewish homes in the West Bank, the protesters sent a message to Olmert in advance of Tuesday's peace conference in Annapolis. They followed a larger demonstration at the Western Wall in which some 15,000 prayed for the Annapolis talks on any territorial withdrawal to fail. Standing on a podium set up a block from Olmert's residence, politicians and religious leaders buoyed by cheers from the crowd of mostly teens and young adults vowed to prevent any further concessions to the Palestinians. Many in the crowd held large black, red and white signs that stretched over their heads proclaiming: "The agreement of Olmert and Abu-Bluff will explode in our faces." Between the speeches, protesters danced to live music performed by religious bands, the songs reminiscent of the many anti-disengagement rallies that preceded the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza. But one speaker warned that Olmert should not be fooled and that the new campaign against further territorial withdrawals would not be like the anti-disengagement campaign, in which the slogan was: "With love we will win." The stakes are high and the fears of those gathered are not a minority concern, given that the Annapolis talks endanger all of Israel, warned Dani Dayan, who heads the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip. "We have not come just to defend the homes of Judea and Samaria, but first and foremost the unity of Jerusalem and the security of Tel Aviv," Dayan said. "We say 'no' to the 1967 border," which the Palestinians are demanding, said Dayan. Davidi of Sderot said he and those who lived in his city, located within the pre-1967 border, had not been immune from attacks by Palestinians. They knew from firsthand experience what it was like to live with the failed policies of Israeli governments, he said. Davidi said he wanted to know where the security was that had been promised to the Sderot residents, who were told that the rocket attacks would cease after Israel withdrew from Gaza. He accused Olmert of toasting the enemy in Annapolis even as they gathered weapons against Israel. The Egyptians with whom Olmert was conversing in the US were the same ones who had failed to prevent weapons and rockets from being smuggled into Gaza across their border, he said. The Syrians support Islamic Jihad who carry out attacks against Israel, Davidi added. National Union MK Zvi Hendel said that Olmert "is the most dangerous prime minister Israel has ever had." Hendel accused Olmert of flying to Annapolis to flee from police investigations and his poor performance in the Second Lebanon War. "Today he is a wounded animal and there is nothing more dangerous," Hendel said. Gush Etzion Regional Council head Shaul Goldstein said this was the time that right-wing politicians should unite to form one party to fight further concessions. Likud MK Gideon Sa'ar said that already Olmert lacked power in the Knesset to make good on the concessions that would be brought up in the Annapolis talks. The majority of the Knesset supported a united Jerusalem, Sa'ar warned. Monday's rally drew politicians from the Right and the coalition, including MK Ze'ev Elkin of Kadima, MK Nissim Ze'ev of Shas and Dudu Rotem of Yisrael Beiteinu. Rotem promised that his party would not let the government freeze construction in the territories. "We will continue to settle Judea and Samaria," he said. Earlier in the day, a group of top right-wing rabbis and their students held an emergency meeting in Jerusalem ahead of the peace conference. "Annapolis threatens our existence as a state and as a nation," said Rabbi Dov Lior, chairman of the Jewish Rabbinical Council. Lior, a prominent rabbi in the settlement movement who favors the transfer of Arabs from the West Bank, lambasted what he called the "opium of peace" after more than 1,000 Israelis were killed in the last seven years of violence. In a joint declaration, the coalition of settler rabbis said that there was a Biblical interdiction against ceding territory to the Palestinians, which, they said, was all the more severe following the 2005 pullout from Gaza which has left Israeli border towns subject to near-daily Palestinian rocket attacks. In a direct reference to the Shas Party, which is still in the government, the rabbis added that anyone who was party to the government's political plans was also going against the Bible. In a separate address, MK Uri Ariel (National Union-National Religious Party) said that the government had "completely frozen" all settlement activity in the West Bank. "The prime minister is not playing any media spin. He is really interested in getting rid of Judea and Samaria," the hawkish parliamentarian said.