Settlers step up protests against highway shootings
By Margot Dudkevitch
JERUSALEM (January 5) - Concerned over deteriorating security on West Bank roads, settlers yesterday stepped up their protest campaign, with some establishing their own lookout post alongside a major highway while others marched on Jerusalem.
Campaigning under the slogan ”Israel is Fighting For Its Life,” Beit El residents established the latest in a series of encampments meant to enhance motorists’ safety, this one overlooking the Ramallah bypass road.
At the same time hundreds of men, women and children from settlements in Judea and Samaria converged on the capital. Residents of Beit El and Kedumim who protested outside Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s residence were joined by right-wing activist Hagai Ben-Artzi, brother-in-law of former premier Binyamin Netanyahu.
”Barak, who gave Jerusalem to the enemies of Israel..the man betrays Jewish history, heritage and tradition,” he told reporters.
The Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza later issued a statement condemning the use of the word traitor.
”There are enough failures by the current government and its leader Barak, there is no need for the use of such unfitting and illegitimate language for a government that in 30 days time will go,” it said.
Not far away, at Safra Square, Netanyahu himself put in an appearance, visiting settlers on hunger strike.
”If we negotiate when Palestinians fire at us and throw terrorist bombs at us and teach their children to eradicate Israel..we are putting our heads in the sand..this is not a peace process,” Netanyahu said. ”The Palestinians with their blatant violations are the ones who buried it...the Oslo process is dead.”
Meanwhile MK Mossi Raz (Meretz) called for the immediate dismantling of the new settler outposts but the settlers themselves vowed to set up more lookouts.
They are to be sited on hilltops and in areas overlooking highways and roads and manned 24 hours a day to help protect those commuting to and from settlements targeted by Palestinian gunmen.
Yesterday morning President Moshe Katsav, under heavy guard, paid a condolence visit to the Kfar Tapuah home of Binyamin and Talia Kahane, gunned down near Ofra on Sunday. Katsav met the couple’s six orphaned children, their grandparents and other relatives.
Speaking to the family and reporters Katsav said ”The tragedy overcomes all differences..the safeguarding of Israeli citizens must be at the forefront of all government policies.”