Traffic Unimpeded by Pullout Protests on Nation's Highways

Settler leaders claim success saying 40,000 drivers stopped on roadsides to 'rethink' disengagement plan.

Haaretz Service
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Haaretz Service

Thousands of drivers pulled over to the sides of major highways and junctions across the country on Monday evening to protest the disengagement plan and urge drivers to 'rethink' pullout. Despite several disruption of traffic, no road blockings were reported.

The protest, dubbed "Stop for a minute, think for a minute," was initiated by Yesha Council settlement leaders who had called on the Israeli public to stop their cars on the roadsides at 6 P.M. and stand for 15 minutes.

Shortly after the protest started, several dozen vehicles had stopped near the Harel interchange on the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway. There were reports a hundred-odd vehicles had stopped at other intersections around the country.

Despite the vehicles pulled over at locations around the country, traffic continued to flow.

Police in Jerusalem, the south, the Sharon and the northern West Bank did not ticket drivers who halted along the roads. However, Tel Aviv police were ticketing those who had stopped on highway shoulders.

The protests went beyond their scheduled time frame and Yesha Council leader Pinchas Wallerstein eventually issued an order to end the event at 7:10 P.M.

The nation-wide operation was the latest in a series of protests against the disengagement plan that the Yesha Council has organized. Immediately following the protest's conclusion, settler leaders hailed its success and claimed 40,000 vehicles took part.

According to organizers' original plans, some 4,000 vehicles were to have spread out on the sides of three major highways - the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway, Highway 4 from Haifa to the Yad Mordechai junction and the Ayalon highways in the Tel Aviv area.

Despite police requests to rethink the holding of the protest, which threatened to bring the country's main arteries to a standstill, the Yesha Council leaders refused to coordinate the protest with police, claiming that it would not disrupt traffic.

Police deployed large forces along the highways, including motorcycles and helicopters, in a bid to keep order. The head of the police operations wing, Commander Kobi Cohen, told Israel Radio that police forces were present on the major highways from Wednesday morning.

Cohen said the protest posed a danger to human life and could disrupt traffic. The protest "was not planned or coordinated with police, there are many places [roads] with no shoulders, or where the shoulders are problematic and therefore stopping on the sides of the road could in certain cases endanger the lives of those stopping or passing cars."

"Our primary task will be to prevent as many cars from stopping on the sides of the road and traffic hold ups," Cohen went on saying.

"I think that such a protest that endangers life should have been coordinated with us in an orderly manner," Cohen said. "We therefore see this protest as illegitimate."

But Cohen said that unlike previous protests and roadblockings, police did not intend to use force against the protestors but only to ensure the flowing of traffic.

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