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Jewish Settlers Protest Withdrawal

December 21, 1997

JERUSALEM (AP) _ Hundreds of Jewish settlers protested Sunday against Israel’s planned withdrawal from more West Bank land, while controversy swelled over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling the West Bank ``part of Israel proper.″

In the West Bank town of Hebron, several dozen Palestinians threw rocks at Israeli soldiers, who responded by firing rubber bullets. One protester was slightly injured.

The settlers, holding signs reading ``Not one inch,″ and ``All of Israel is ours,″ protested outside Netanyahu’s office, where the Cabinet was discussing plans for an Israeli troop pullback in the West Bank, then marched to the U.S. consulate.

``We are here to let the world know that the redeployment plan is something that will destroy Israel,″ said protester Tzvi Honickman.

Israel still controls the majority of the West Bank, which it captured in the 1967 Middle East War. Netanyahu’s government is under heavy U.S. pressure to further withdrawals, as promised in the Israel-Palestinian peace accords.

The Cabinet has agreed in principle to go ahead with another withdrawal, but has not committed to a date or amount of land.

In a speech Friday to an international Jewish media conference in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said the West Bank was ``part of Israel proper.″

Michael Stoltz, a spokesman for the prime minister, said Netanyahu intended to say that the West Bank was part of ``Eretz Israel″ _ the Hebrew term used to refer to the biblical land of Israel.

The West Bank is home to about 1.5 million Palestinians and 150,000 Jewish settlers. The Palestinians want to establish an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, where they currently have only limited autonomy.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, speaking Saturday in Cairo, said the ``the serious statement by Netanyahu that the West Bank was considered part of the Jewish state″ was ``dangerous.″

Arafat said Netanyahu’s statement was a violation of the Israeli-Palestinian peace agreements and would affect American efforts to move the peace process forward.

The Syrian government newspaper Tishrin called Netanyahu’s statement the ``climax of Israeli intransigence and arrogance.″

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