Western Wall protest: ‘End peace talks at once’

Hundreds gather at Jerusalem holy site to pray and rally against ‘growing pressure’ to ‘forfeit lands’ to Palestinians

Illustrative photo of Jewish worshipers praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City (Matanya Tausig/Flash90/File)
Illustrative photo of Jewish worshipers praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City (Matanya Tausig/Flash90/File)

Hundreds of right-wing demonstrators gathered at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem Thursday to voice their rejection of ongoing US-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

The protesters called on the government to halt all negotiations with the Palestinians, and to resist “growing pressure” to “forfeit territories” and evacuate settlements in the West Bank.

The rally, dubbed by its organizers a “gathering for anguished prayer,” was attended by Housing Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home), as well as several prominent rabbis within the settler community, including Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, Rabbi Dov Lior of Hebron and Rabbi Haim Druckman.

The participants called for the cancellation of the “Kerry edicts.” The word “edicts” is a reference to historic anti-Jewish measures by various rulers throughout European and Muslim history, often involving expulsion or pogrom.

One prayer pamphlet distributed at the rally, which was read publicly during the proceedings, read: “Please O God, give strength and courage and truth and faith to our leaders, and give them a great fear from Thee, to fill them with reverence and make them wary of harming our holy country … make them fear Thee, and not the nations of the world.”

Jewish Home MK Moti Yogev, who also attended the afternoon rally, insinuated earlier in the day that US Secretary of State John Kerry was at least partially motivated by anti-Semitism in his efforts to forge a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.

“The prime minister [Benjamin Netanyahu] is maneuvering under the obsessive and unprofessional pressures that might also bear an undertone of anti-Semitism on Kerry’s part,” Yogev told Israel Radio.

Yogev’s comments came amid a public spat between Netanyahu and Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett over Bennett’s reaction to a statement by an official close to Netanyahu – first reported by The Times of Israel – according to which the prime minister was insisting in the peace talks that West Bank settlers be given the choice to remain in their homes under Palestinian rule.

Bennett had said on Tuesday that leaving settlers in a Palestinian state was unthinkable because, among other reasons, it would represent a reversal of Zionism and the settlers would be killed by their Palestinian neighbors. In an apparent thinly veiled reference to Netanyahu, he added that history “won’t forgive” an Israeli leader who relinquishes parts of the Land of Israel under a peace deal.

Bennett was later forced to issue a semi-apology after Netanyahu’s aides threatened to fire him, saying he did not mean to offend the prime minister.

Israel and the Palestinian Authority began a nine-month track of US-backed peace negotiations in July, but so far there has been little visible progress. The Palestinians warned that after the deadline, they could take legal action in the international courts against Israel over its settlement expansion on land they want for their future state.

Several Israeli politicians and a host of pundits have said they believe Israel will be blamed if the current round of talks with the Palestinians fails to produce an agreement.

Senior Israeli officials, including Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (Hatnua) and Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid), have warned that absent an agreement leading to two states, Israel will face a severe backlash and be isolated economically and politically from the international community.

JTA contributed to this report.

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