Daily Israel Report

July 18: Tens of Thousands to March on Gush Katif

The Yesha Council has preempted the government: Instead of waiting for the government to declare D-Day by closing off Gush Katif, the Council is asking myriads to start marching on July 18.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 7/7/2005, 9:14 AM / Last Update: 7/7/2005, 11:40 AM

The plan is for tens of thousands of people - 100,000 ideally, but even 40,000 will do, Council leaders say - to begin making their way down towards Gush Katif in Gaza on July 18.

The objective, according to a pamphlet the Council issued this week, is to
"stop the disengagement plan and cancel the expulsion decree, via the moving of masses to Gush Katif... We cannot stand idly by. We must activate tens of thousands of people in various activities.

[This mission known as] D-day is not just another demonstration, but rather a broad-based activity to prevent the expulsion crime by creating a new reality - one that is based on nationwide popular public protest together with an actual activity to stop the expulsion machine. Only these two together will lead to the toppling of this political/public process and the cancellation of the plan."

Yesha (Judea, Samaria and Gaza) Council Chairman Bentzy Lieberman explained the plan to Arutz-7: "D-Day is myriads beginning to march to join up with our besieged brothers who are standing up to the tremendous pressures they have been facing for years with great heroism."

Asked the significance of the date - four weeks before the scheduled uprooting/withdrawal - Lieberman said, "We wish to change the public consciousness. This means we have to enough time before the government begins the uprooting so that things can really change, including the votes in the Knesset that will be held at the end of the month... We wish to do everything that could help dissolve support for the expulsion, and there is definitely a lot to do."

The original plan was to wait for the government to close the areas - preventing non-residents from entering - and then call on the myriads to start marching down. Lieberman explained that this plan has been shelved, "because it will be easier to bring people out on a specific day chosen by us, than on the day the government chooses. For one thing, people might hesitate to go down to a place where they fear there will be violence, and others will feel that it’s already too late."

"There is definitely much to do; the orange revolution is still on and still going strong - even if we lost some momentum from what I think were the irresponsible actions of the last week or two. But now we are in another reversal of the trend."

The logistics of bringing out tens of thousands of people to the unknown are formidable. "We will begin on July 18 in [the Negev town of] Netivot," Lieberman said, "where we are building large parking lots that can hold myriads. People will arrive either by private car or by organized buses. We assume that the roads to Netivot will be open, but that from Netivot and southward they will be closed - and so from there, we have various plans to walk on the roadsides and elsewhere so that we can get to Kisufim [the main entrance to southern Gush Katif]... To have 30-40,000 people, headed by leading rabbis and headliners such as [former Minister and refusenik Natan] Sharansky and [former Knesset Speaker Dov] Shilansky walking at the head of the march - this will be a tremendous march of devotion and a show of strength that won't be able to be ignored."

"You are aware," said Arutz-7's Amatzia HaEitan, "that Defense Minister Sha'ul Mofaz has said that this move of yours will bring about the closure of the Gush."

Lieberman's voice took on an even more determined tone: "Look, what they want is total quiet, as if it were rest period between 2-4 PM, and that they won't have to close the Gush until an hour before the uprooting, and then suddenly the gong rings and they quickly and cleanly pull off the expulsion. This is not what we want. We know that they will likely close the Gush as a result, and the people who live there also know this and accept this, because they know that to close the Gush at the last minute is much worse."

"We don't want to merely protest; we want to truly change the situation. We want to cause a new public way of thinking about this entire situation - and to do this, we have to start a month in advance."

The Yesha Council has come in for some criticism for not turning last Thursday - when the army closed off the Gush in order to evacuate the Maoz Yam hotel - into D-Day. Some accused the Council of "cooperating" with the army and abandoning the hotel's residents. Lieberman explained, however, that calling for myriads to stream down to Gush Katif on that day would not have worked:

"To bring down 5,000 people is easy; we can do that with the push of a button. But 40,000-50,000 is a lot harder. It requires a lot of preparation. Most of them will not be from Gush Katif, they have to take vacation, etc."

Pressed further about the Council's acceptance of last Thursday's closure, Lieberman said it came on the heels of the negative public reaction to the events of last week - the nails-and-oil on the highway, the road-blockings, and the violence at the Muwasi. (He did not mention that the nails-and-oil is widely suspected to be an act of provocation by left-wing elements.)

"We will win only if we realize that we have to run a campaign with a very broad base, with many of the streams in the religious-Zionist camp taking part. If we don't do this, but rather have sporadic, independent, irresponsible acts, this will lead to the collapse of the struggle. Right now, we have historic unity amongst us - the vast majority of rabbis and public figures and groups are with us. Any group that is not part weakens the struggle."

Nadia Matar of Women in Green, who currently lives in the tiny seaside community of Kfar Yam, near Shirat HaYam in Gush Katif, said this morning, "This is it - Women in Green, Gamla Shall not Fall Again, the Yesha Council, other groups - we're all together. Even the people themselves in Gush Katif, who until now have taken on the important role of living their lives while their supporters on the outside wage the active struggle, now realize that they have a new role. Rabbi Yigal Kaminetzky of Gush Katif was at our meeting, and he agrees as well. We are now beginning the job of preparing for the thousands who will be coming here."

"There has to be electricity in the air!" Lieberman said. "This is our only chance to stop it. We will succeed in bringing people out only if there is a real trend, a feeling that everyone is coming, everyone is taking part, no one is left out, no one sitting at home. No disputes, no differences, just unity of purpose, with everyone accepting the leadership, led by [former Chief Rabbis] Rav Avraham [Shapira] and Rav [Mordechai] Eliyahu, and heads of the yeshivot and the pre-military activities and their students and people from central Israel and Tel Aviv and Petach Tikvah and all over - this is the public electricity that is needed to stop the plan."

What is the plan if and when the marchers reach the Kisufim entrance to Gush Katif, which will certainly be blocked?

Lieberman: "Our position is that it's simply impossible to arrest 40,000 people who walk quietly on the side. They can arrest 1,000 - but not 40,000. This is the great importance of it - we're just coming to say a great Yasher Koach ("more power to you") to our brothers in Gush Katif. No violence, just a tremendous show of moral fortitude. We are connecting with Gush Katif and saying, 'We're here!' The State of Israel has not yet seen something like this - its echoes will reach Jerusalem, day after day, and this will stop the process."