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Political Analysis and Commentary
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"For Zion's sake I shall not hold my peace, And for Jerusalem's sake I shall not rest."

Road-Blocking Begins, IDF Declares Gush Katif Hotel Closed Zone - June 29, 2005 / 22 Sivan 5765

The civil disobedience roadblocking protest scheduled for Wednesday began amidst extensive police preparations. The government used the event to issue expulsion orders to residents of Ma\'oz Yam.

Main thoroughfares have been blocked across the country at the current time, bringing the State of Israel to a halt. The roads blocked include Yechezkel Road in Jerusalem, Egged Junction near Tzfat (Safed), Jabotinsky Road in Ramat Gan, the Geha Highway and the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv, between the JNF and Glilot Junctions.

As blocked roads are cleared by police, groups of activists are scattering in different directions and blocking additional roads, causing confusion among the police forces.

Israel National Radio\'s Avi Hyman reports that police are using even more violent tactics than they have in the past, but that protesters are undeterred, locking arms and maintaining their non-violent protest.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called upon the police to do whatever possible to stifle the protests. "We will not allow a fellowship of gangs to drag the country downhill," Sharon told ministers during a cabinet session Wednesday.

Over 6,000 police are deployed along the country\'s roads. Police are using horses at the Bar Ilan junction in Jerusalem to keep the road clear.

All pedestrians have been barred from approaching the entrance to Jerusalem, where police are directing water-cannons at crowds gathered along the side of the roads.

One protester, taking part in the blocking of the main Jabotinsky thoroughfare between Ramat Gan and B\'nei Brak reports that the road is completely blocked by close to a hundred protesters.

"A bride with orange ribbons on her dress and on her car was stuck in the traffic, so we decided to let her through," the protester told Arutz-7, "but everyone else is stuck as we demonstrate to the country that life can not go on as usual as Jews are threatened with expulsion.

Shortly after the protests began, the IDF commander of the southern command declared the area of the Maoz Yam hotel on the Gush Katif seashore to be a closed military zone. Restraining orders were also issued to the individuals currently residing in the hotel. Hundreds of protesters are streaming to the region to prevent the expulsion of the inhabitants.

Women in Green\'s Nadia Matar, one of those who refurbished the hotel to absorb new residents of Gush Katif, called upon those worldwide who oppose the expulsion of Jews from parts of the Land of Israel to make their way to Gush Katif. "Now is the time," Matar told Arutz-7.

Israel National Radio\'s special broadcast covering Wednesday\'s civil disobedience can be heard by clicking here.

Demonstrators block roads across the country

Yaakov katz, Gil Hoffman and JPost staff, THE JERUSALEM POST Jun. 28, 2005

Right-wing opponents of the disengagement blocked the road at the entrance to Jerusalem Wednesday evening.

Nails and spikes were scattered on the Tel Aviv - Jerusalem Highway Wednesday morning.
Photo: CNN

Jerusalem municipality workers clean the welcome sign at the entrance to the city that had been painted in orange by anti-disengagement activists.

About 20 activists jumped into the middle of the road and closed it off. They were also clashing with police. Ten people were arrested.

The police were trying to keep protestors out of the road using a large water canon. They were firing strong streams of water at activists lined up on the sides of the road.

The demonstrators were covering themselves with signs in order to protect themselves from the strong blasts that threw some people as high as four meters in the air.

Other anti-pullout protestors blocked both directions of traffic on a northern section of the Ayalon Highway, between the Kakal and Glilot Junctions.

At the Morasha Junction in central Israel, five demonstrators were arrested.

The country-wide roadblocks were planned to begin at 5 p.m., but strong police presence delayed the start-time.

Several dozen anti-disengagement protestors tried blocking the Bar Ilan Junction in Jerusalem, but they were quickly dispersed by police. One activist was arrested for threatening the life of a police officer.

At the Shimshon Junction near Beit Shemesh, a youth was detained after he was found carrying a tire that he planned to set on fire in the road.

Several dozen demonstrators were blocking the Paz Bridge in Haifa.

The day of planned massive roadblocks was launched Wednesday morning by activists who poured oil and scattered nails and spikes on the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem road near Kfar Chabad.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon instructed police and security forces to take all steps necessary to prevent the road blocks and disturbances of order planned by right-wing activists to protest the disengagement plan.

"We cannot allow a bunch of gangs to undermine our country," Sharon told a meeting of the security cabinet Wednesday afternoon.

Police stressed that "it was miracle that incident ended without a disaster." The spikes did, however, puncture the tires of some twenty cars and led to heavy traffic jams.

By around 10 AM police had cleared the roads of oil and nails. Roads were reopened, but traffic remained sluggish from the Ganot junction towards the east. Road 443 near Modi\'in was also plagued with traffic jams.

The heads of the Bayit Leumi (National Homeland)organization, who are responsible for Wednesday\'s impending roadblock protests across the country that were scheduled for 5 p.m., denied responsibility for and condemned the actions of this unrelated group of protesters.

"It is a provocation that endangers people\'s lives and contradicts the essence of a nonviolent civil protest," a spokesman said. The organization called on any citizen who sees such activity to immediately contact the police to "save lives."

The National Union faction, which sent lawyers to defend the street blockers in the past, announced that they would no longer take part in defending people that endanger lives by scattering nails and oil, but they would continue defending protestors who use legitimate protests against the evacuation.

On Wednesday afternoon, police discovered a stockpile of 15 tires by the roadside, along with bottles of flammable liquid, near Pardesiya in the Sharon region, evidently to be used in the afternoon\'s roadblocks.

Former prime minister Ehud Barak said that "blocking the streets and what happened in Tal Yam are a warning signal on the path to anarchy. The government of Israel has the tools to take action, and it must. Through security steps and dialogue with the public, and all its sectors, the government can change things."

Matan Vilnai reacted to the disruptions as well: "These efforts to destroy the Israeli democracy with wild, dangerous violence must be stopped. Whoever put oil on the roads added fuel to the fire of the conflagration of Israeli life. Police must understand that this is the struggle for the future of Israeli democracy, and Israeli citizens have a right to live their lives in peace. They should act immediately to arrest the people responsible and those who sent them, and punish them in a harsh and clear way."

Communications Minister Dalia Itzik asked the prime minister that the next cabinet meeting be devoted to the subject of violence of disengagement opponents. All intelligence and police officials should be invited to report on the dangers expected."

National Religious Zionist Renewal Party MK Effi Eitam said that what happened Wednesday morning "plays into the hands of Sharon and harms the legitimate struggle of hundreds of thousands of citizens who oppose disengagement. The people who did the act do not represent our path or our wide public that is struggling against disengagement through legitimate and nonviolent means."

Knesset Law Committee Chairman Michael Eitan (Likud) condemned the act, saying that "It was cowardly act of hooliganism that has no place in the framework of the right to democratic protest."

He said it was closer to "an act of terrorism than to a legitimate protest." He called on police to use all means available to investigate the affair, and urged disengagement opponents to condemn the act.

MK Zahava Galon (Meretz) called on the state to classify Bayit Leumi as a terrorist organization, Israel Radio reported.

MK Roni Brizon (Shinui) said "those that danced on the day of Rabin\'s assassination carried out the terror attack on Road 1 today," Brizon said, "And it was only by chance that no one was hurt. From now on security forces should treat Jewish terrorists with same severity that they treat other terrorists," Brizon alleged.

Police were on high alert since Tuesday night in anticipation of the protests, which were originally scheduled for last week but were postponed following a fatal train accident.

Meanwhile, Magen David Adom said it had beefed up its ranks in preparation for the protests. Ambulances were stationed at junctions and roads around the country to provide quick attention in case of emergences, MDA officials said.

Moshe Feiglin, Right activist and head of the Likud Jewish Leadership faction promised that the road-blockers would not be violent.

"Clearly the protestors will behave in a non-violent manner. They will passively seat themselves down in the road in order to save those same drivers – who may get irritated today – from the deadly disengagement," Feiglin told Israel Radio.

Feiglin brushed off the risk that the traffic jams could inadvertently lead to injuries and death. "We have seen many more deaths thanks to this disengagement plan," Feiglin retorted. "The chances are slim that this will happen, compared to the certainty of deaths that the withdrawal will cause."

But endangering the lives of drivers is in itself violent, a police official told Israel Radio Wednesday morning.

"Violence isn\'t necessarily just raising a hand against someone. If someone rushes unexpectedly into the street and startles a driver – this could lead to a potential disaster and even death."

He asserted that police were well prepared to deal with the roadblocks.

"We are prepared for any situation. I have no doubt that we will be able to deal with [the roadblocks] more effectively than in previous cases. There is no doubt that some roads will be blocked, but we will make every effort to reopen them as quickly as possible."

Police said they were taking the road blocking threats seriously. Insp.-Gen. Moshe Karadi ordered the force to raise the level of alert to "Level 3" - one notch before a state of emergency – and to deploy thousands of policemen to roads and intersections across the country.

Police said they would act firmly and decisively against the protestors who entered the roads to block traffic. Organizers planned to block the Ayalon Highway, the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv Highway and other major roads and intersections countrywide.

"The road-blockers endanger drivers\' lives and disrupt our daily routine," police said. "And parents and organizers should remember that the country\'s roads are dangerous and should not be turned into a demonstration venue."

Calling on the public to demonstrate patience and tolerance during Wednesday\'s protest, police also warned parents to rein in their children and to forbid them from participating in the demonstration. Last month, Bayit Leumi succeeded in blocking over 40 major roads and intersections simultaneously throughout the country.

Following the demonstration, over 400 people were arrested – mostly youths.

Asst.-Cmdr. Kobi Cohen – head of the police\'s Operations Department - said Tuesday that police would first and foremost address blocked roads and the resulting traffic, and making arrests would be their second priority.

"Our first mission is preventing road blockages and our second mission is to arrest," Cohen told Channel 2, adding that if police were to concentrate on arrests, citizens could remain stuck in traffic jams for hours.


Support for Disengagement Plan Continues to Fall - June 29, 2005 / 22 Sivan 5765

A newly published poll shows Israeli support for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s Disengagement Plan continuing to fall.

According to the poll, which was released Wednesday, support for the plan has dropped to 48 percent of Israeli Jews. A June 17th telephone poll published in Israeli Hebrew-language daily Maariv showed 54 percent of Israel’s Jews supporting the plan.

The poll was carried out by the Midgam polling company, affiliated with the Harris Interactive polling company based in the US. It was commissioned by anti-disengagement Likud "loyalists." Despite its having been so commissioned, pollster Mano Geva told Arutz-7 that the poll had been carried out according to the highest accepted professional standards.

The poll demonstrated an increasing drop in support for the plan and a steep rise to 41 percent of Israeli Jews who oppose the plan. 11 percent remain undecided.

The survey also shows an extremely large percentage of Likud voters and members of the party’s Central Committee oppose the plan, though that comes as no surprise due to the 60% to 40% rejection of the plan following a Likud referendum.