Protest at Western Wall today (Courtesy Israel National News)
JERUSALEM – Israelis across the country today protested Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s attendance at tomorrow’s U.S.-sponsored Annapolis summit, blasting the Israeli leader for his expressed willingness to evacuate strategic territory, including possibly swaths of Jerusalem.
Nationalist groups handed out flyers against Annapolis at the entrances to Jerusalem and other major Israeli cities and even blocked streets in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in protest of tomorrow’s summit.
An estimated 25,000 people took part in a mass prayer service at the Western Wall today against Olmert’s positions at Annapolis; afterwards large crowds converged for a protest outside the prime minister’s Jerusalem residence. Another estimated 10,000 Israelis rallied today in the center of Jerusalem, with many holding placards denouncing land giveaways.
“Ehud Olmert, like Abu Mazen (Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas) and George Bush, is a lame duck and all they can offer are expectations which will ultimately blow up in our faces,” said Danny Dayan, chairman of the Yesha council of Jewish settlements.
At a protest at the Western Wall, Knesset Member Uri Ariel told the crowd: “It is critical for us to offer prayer to our Father in Heaven when the prime minister wants to sell our national homeland. We are here [at the Wall] to say that we trust in God and that Olmert has no mandate to give up Jerusalem.”
Knesset Member David Rotem of the Yisrael Beitenu party, which is part of Olmert’s government coalition, said: “We’re all here as one to say to the government of Israel – do not raise your hand against Jerusalem, do not raise your hand against the settlements in Judea and Samaria. We will not allow the prime minister and defense minister to freeze the expansion of settlements in Judea and Samaria, and we will continue to populate it.”
Shaul Goldstein, spokesman for a major West Bank Jewish community, said at a rally Olmert didn’t represent the Israeli public at Annapolis.
“The people of Israel did not give you a mandate to give away its property and what belongs to it historically … you have no mandate, sir,” said Goldstein.
Yeshiva students tomorrow plan to encircle Jerusalem’s Old City walls in protest of Annapolis, and a massive rally is planned for the center of the city.
While some dismiss the statements of protest leaders as rhetoric, recent polls of the general population here show Olmert doesn’t have the public’s backing to withdraw from the West Bank or Jerusalem.
A survey sponsored last week by the Israel Policy Center for Promoting Parliamentary Democracy and Jewish Values in Israeli Public Life found 61 percent of the general Israeli public opposes a withdrawal from most of the West Bank and handing the strategic territory to the Palestinians.
Seventy-seven percent of Israelis polled said they believe Abbas lacked the power to prevent attacks from the West Bank.
If Israel indeed evacuated the West Bank, some 55 percent of Israelis believe Palestinians will use the territory to fire rockets into Jewish population centers, and 65 percent believe there is a high or very high chance Hamas would take control of the area, according to the new poll. Hamas leaders in recent days warned their terror group would take over the West Bank if Israel withdrew.
Some 55 percent of Israelis believe the Knesset should remove Olmert from office due to multiple criminal investigations against him charging various degrees of financial and political corruption.
Also, 53 percent of Israelis said they believe the main reason Olmert was seeking an accord with the Palestinians was because of concern for his political future and not Israel’s national interests.
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