Protesters vow Israel will retake territories

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JERUSALEM — Before the final vote for the Palestinian Council was even tallied Saturday, 10,000 to 15,000 people cheered in Jerusalem's Zion Square as Rabbi Haim Druckman vowed Israel would return to all of the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

"There is no doubt that we will return to Bethlehem, to Nablus, to Ramallah," said Druckman, head of Yeshivat Or Etzion. "We will return to all of Eretz Yisrael [the biblical Land of Israel]. Eretz Yisrael is ours, and we are hers forever."

The rally, organized by a coalition of right-wing groups under the banner, "Everyone to the Defense of Jerusalem," was the first clearly anti-government rally since Yitzhak Rabin's assassination in November. About double the number came to a rally there against Knesset ratification of the Oslo II agreement in October.

Ya'acov Novick, one of the organizers of the rally from a group called Mateh Ma'amatz, alluded to the October demonstration, recalling that alleged Shin Bet agent Avishai Raviv distributed pictures of Rabin in a Gestapo uniform — an act for which right-wingers were criticized after Rabin's murder.

"That is a scandal," Novick said. "In a normal country a committee of inquiry would have been established to look into the matter, but here it passed quietly." The crowd booed loudly when Raviv's name was mentioned.

In an apparent plea to those in the crowd not to do anything that could be used by the left wing to delegitimize the demonstration, Novick said, "Today we must not allow the arguments to be marginalized. We need to demonstrate, and in a big way. We need to return to the streets."

Hundreds of policemen were on the side streets leading into Zion Square, but no incidents were reported. The harshest chant heard last night was "Peres Go Home."

"We are organizing a struggle to ensure that facts are not created that will divide Jerusalem," said City Councilman Shmuel Meir.

"Do not despair. A generation ago we were willing to sacrifice our lives for Jerusalem. Today as well we have no choice but to sacrifice our lives for Jerusalem."