Expressing satisfaction with the huge number of right-wingers who gathered at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv to protest the disengagement plan on Thursday evening, leaders of the Yesha Council, the principal organization of Israeli settlers, said they would increase their anti-pullout activities in light of the massive turnout.
The settlers also said the big turnout is a slam to the Israeli left-wing activists who view Rabin Square as ‘the heart of Israel’s left wing.’
Ã¢â‚¬Å“After a demonstration like this, we will have to rethink our steps,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Council head Pinchas Wallerstein. Ã¢â‚¬Å“When the masses come out like this to support us, I think we will have to expand our activities.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Wallerstein also said that he was told by a police official who was present at the rally that if one fourth of the rally’s participants blocked Kissufim crossing as told, security forces would not be able to complete the pullout.
Against the expectations of the police, at least 150,000 people took part in the demonstration, under the banner, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Gush Katif – I swear we will be there.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The settlers presented their plan,Ã‚Â called ‘Orange Dawn’, in which they give instructions for disrupting the pullout, which is slated to start in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
Yesha Council settler leaders instructed protestors to drive in convoys to the Kissufim crossing point to the Gaza Strip to prevent the security officers from reaching the settlements in the Gaza Strip to start their pullout work.
Kissufim will be closed to Israeli civilians on Sunday midnight, Israeli security sources said.
About 42,000 soldiers and police officers, split into five command centers, will be deployed to the Gush Katif settlements. The total number of people involved in the operation could reach 53,000 if additional units are enlisted.
The new instructions reflect a major change in the settlers’ strategy.Ã‚Â They earlier planned to get tens of thousands of pullout foes into the Gush Katif. It nowÃ‚Â seems that they have dropped this idea.
One settler leader, Tzvika Bar-Hai, told protesters to make their way to Israeli towns near the Gaza Strip ‘on Monday by car, by bus, and by foot. We will then leave for the entrances into Gush Katif.’
He asked them to ignore the checkpoints, saying ‘We will not be stopped at checkpoints, we will bypass them from the right and from the left.’
Trying to lower the level of violence expected at the protests between the protestors and the security officers, Bar-Hai said, ‘We will not raise a hand against police and army personnel. We will reach our destination by use of our bodies and with our children. We will not confront anyone.’
Police Expects 50,000 to rally in Tel Aviv
The protest might be the last before Israel starts implementing the pullout plan. It comes four days before the end of the period which Israel gave the settlers to peacefully evacuate the settlements; disengagement will officially start on August 17, 2005.
The Settlement Council plans to present its plan to foil disengagement during the Tel Aviv protest.
The Police deployed large number of forces around Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, the location of the protest.
Dozens of policemen were deployed around the square and the memorial installed in memoriam of the Israeli Prime Minister, Yitshak Rabin, who was assassinated there on November 4, 1995, by Israeli extremist Yigal Amir, after Rabin signed the Oslo agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization.Ã‚Â
The police fears that some settlers will write slogans on his grave, as has happened several times in the past.
On Wednesday night, around 70.000 settlers participated at a protest near the Eastern Wall in the old city of Jerusalem and prayed for Ã¢â‚¬Å“voiding the pullout plan,Ã¢â‚¬Â which they refer to as Ã¢â‚¬Å“the withdrawal strikeÃ¢â‚¬Â.