An estimated 1,500 people crowded a Jerusalem square on Monday evening, holding the first of what is likely to become a series of anti-Obama rallies and protests against American pressure upon the Israeli government.
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No fewer than four top US government officials are in Israel this week – “just a coincidence,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has said – to bring a message of “Stop building in Judea, Samaria and northern and eastern Jerusalem” to the Israeli government. Among them is special Obama envoy George Mitchell. The slogan of the rally, on the other hand, was, “Yes to Israeli independence, no to American dictates!”
"Yes, there is a new Middle East, and there is change: G-d Almighty has taken His people out of exile and brought them back home to its land! And woe unto those who would interfere in this process!
Among the speakers were rabbis, Knesset Members, and other public officials. First to address the crowd was Rabbi Eliezer Waldman, Dean of Yeshivat Nir Kiryat Arba and a former Knesset Member. Acknowledging that Obama promised to bring “change,” and that President Shimon Peres has long spoken of a “New Middle East,” the rabbi said, “Yes, there is a new Middle East – G-d Almighty has taken His people out of exile and brought them back home to its land! He has brought them to independence, to settlement, to life in its land that has now come to life once again! This is the ‘change’! And woe unto those who would interfere in this process of change!”
Addressing U.S. President Barack Obama directly, Rabbi Waldman said, “You are a racist! How dare you tell Jews that they can’t live in this place or in that location? We’re finished with such periods in our history!”
Expressing opposition to the blatant American intervention in Israeli policies, the many home-made signs at the protest declared messages such as:
- The Land of the Bible belongs to the People of the Bible
- Obama: No You Can’t!
- Yes We Can Build Settlements
- Warning: American Jews are in Danger
- Obama, deal with Iran – Israel belongs to the Jews
- Jordan is Palestine
- Israel Won’t Fold
- Let My People Grow
Chanan Ben-Ari, 21, told the crowd, “Good evening to you, heroes of the Land of Israel… and good evening to you, as well, Mr. Prime Minister. I have just completed my army service, and I was married eight months ago, and to our great sorrow – we are unable to find a caravan in which to live in the very town in which I grew up, Karnei Shomron! And it’s not just me – an estimated 1,400 young couples are estimated to be leaving Yesha every year because there are no homes to be had! Not only in Karnei Shomron, but also in Ariel, and in Beit El, and in Kedumim, and Ofrah – this is the quiet expulsion that is going on! And it’s certainly not that I don’t have the right connections, as my father Herzl is the mayor of Karnei Shomron, and my uncle Michael is a talented Knesset Member, but the simple truth is that there are no homes to be had! I call on you to rebuff the American pressure and allow Jewish families to build once again.”
Gershon Mesika, Chairman of the Shomron Regional Council, said, “The dispute here is not only over settlements or outposts – but over the whole country! The Arabs don’t want us anywhere in this land; they want us only in the ocean! … Mr. Obama: Remove your hands from the Land of Israel! You must understand this simple truth: The Land of Israel belongs to the Nation of Israel according to the Torah of Israel.”
“The fact that America treats the State of Israel as a banana republic, and the American willingness to abandon us in exchange for Islamic PR approval around the world, brings us here.”
Yakir Segev: “We need not rely only on our leadership to do the right thing. Rather, if Netanyahu has a strong public behind him, then he will be able to hold fast.”
MK Yaakov Katz (Ketzaleh), head of the National Union party, led the crowd in chanting, “Mitchell, go home! Mitchell, go home!” Taking note of the Central Bureau of Statistics report noting strong population growth in Judea and Samaria, Ketzaleh repeated his call for increased population growth: “I am a Kohen [priest], and I therefore bless you that every family that can should have another child this year!”
MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union), “We never had any expectations from Obama, for we didn’t vote for him. But there were many Jews who voted for Netanyahu and had expectations from him. But ever since I saw him vote in favor of the Disengagement four years ago – even though he knew that it was bad for Israel – I knew we could not count on him. … and now he thinks that he can establish a demilitarized state for Arabs in the heart of the Land of Israel. Don’t let him make that mistake! He needs your protests! And even more so do the Likud MKs who voted against the Disengagement need your support. If you are strong, then they will arise one by one and oppose this destructive, suicidal program. The government plans to uproot outposts and to freeze construction in Yesha, and in Jerusalem as well – but it’s up to us! We can tell Netanyahu from here, ‘Stop now! Before you lose your government!’”
Danny Dayan, head of the Yesha Council of Jewish Communities of Judea and Samaria, reminded the audience of the various actions Israel took despite American pressure – the preemptive attack of the Six Day War in 1967, the attack on the Iraqi nuclear reactor, the annexation of Jerusalem and the Golan, and others – and “in their merit, we are here today. Therefore, those who say we can’t withstand American pressure have evil intentions and are ignorant of the truth.
Chananel Durani, mayor of Kedumim, declared that his town would continue to build, despite the difficulties.
MK David Rotem (Israel Our Home) and Nissan Slomiansky, past and apparently future MK from the Jewish Home party, also addressed the protest rally, after which the participants walked to the nearby American consulate carrying torches.