Holiday Traffic: Mushrooming Illegal Outposts With Beitar Flag Waving

A large yellow and black flag of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer club waved yesterday over a circle of dancing right-wing activists in the E-1 area between Jerusalem and Maaleh Adumim, where they want to establish an outpost called Mevaseret Adumim.

The flag flew next to Israeli flags and orange ones symbolizing opposition to withdrawal from the territories, as the Beitar supporters joined hundreds of right-wing supporters who responded to a call by the Temple Mount and Land of Israel Faithful organization to establish nine outposts throughout the West Bank.

"What are we doing here?" one of the young soccer fans asked rhetorically before leaving for a soccer game at Bloomfield Stadium. "Establishing the outpost is the most Beitar there is."

While the youths called on the spirit of their team, the Land of Israel Faithful tied their protest in with the warriors whose victory is marked on Hanukkah, saying: "We will continue the spirit of faith and courage out of belief in God, in the way of the Hasmoneans!"

The group's campaign included a symbolic establishment of outposts near Hebron (called Maalot Halhul), Elon Moreh (Harehivi), Kochav Hashahar (Maoz Esther) and Hashmonaim (Nofei Hashmonaim). The largest protest - including an appearance by MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union-National Religious Party) - was on a hilltop in the E-1 area, with only a few dozen demonstrators reaching the other symbolic outposts.

Police declared all nine sites to be closed military zones, but by and large allowed marchers to go there, hold protests until the evening, and light Hanukkah candles there. Small groups of activists remained at some of the sites, preparing to spend the night.

Establishing an outpost in the controversial E-1 area, a bone of contention between Israel and the United States, is 'a protest meant to balance the pressure on the Israeli government," said Eldad. "It can't be that only the left and the Arabs tell the government where Jews can settle. The message of not building here is a very bad message. They're just looking for excuses not to build, but this is where construction will take place. We will beat the evil and foolish government here."

The protest, which took place hundreds of meters away from a large new building slated to become the headquarters of the West Bank police in early 2008, actually ended up attracting attention to the advanced construction that is already taking place in the disputed area. Several dozen Peace Now activists held their own demonstration nearby to protest the construction.

"Our problem isn't the settlers," said Peace Now spokesman Yariv Oppenheimer. "We've come to protest the government's not fulfilling its obligations."

Construction in the E-1 area began nearly two years ago, after the Sharon government decided to separate the construction of police headquarters from the overall building plan, which called for the construction of 3,500 housing units.