Jewish settlers feeling betrayed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rallied outside his office Friday to protest an emerging agreement to withdraw Israeli troops from the West Bank town of Hebron.
Settler leaders who were instrumental in bringing Netanyahu to power in May said they would wage an uncompromising campaign against the government.In Hebron, a shot was fired at an army outpost Friday, but no one was hurt. Troops closed some Arab-owned shops in the area.
Israel and the Palestinians have been inching toward agreement on a Hebron troop withdrawal for weeks. On Wednesday, Netanyahu canceled a trip to the United States to oversee the last stages of negotiations.
However, the U.S.-brokered talks hit a snag over Israel's demand that its troops be able to operate freely after redeployment to prevent terror attacks by Palestinians. Negotiations were to resume Sunday.
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat said Friday there had been no progress. Asked whether a deal was near, he said: "We hope so, but there are still big differences."
Netanyahu called President Clinton and King Hussein on Thursday to brief them on the negotiations, Israeli media reported. Netanyahu blamed Arafat for the slow pace of the talks.
Israel's previous government agreed to pull troops from 80 percent of Hebron while keeping soldiers in the downtown area to protect some 500 settlers who live amidst 130,000 Palestinians.
As candidate in the May elections, Netanyahu had promised to expand the Jewish enclaves in the city, though he never said he would not carry out the redeployment.
However, under the new Hebron deal - as under the old one - the Palestinian-controlled municipality will have control over issuing building permits, thus making it difficult for the Jewish enclaves to expand.
Jewish settlers said they felt betrayed. Eliyakim Haetzni, one of the protesters outside Netanyahu's office, said the agreement "forecloses the future of the Jewish community in Hebron."
Netanyahu also has lost support of the ultra-Orthodox Habad movement, which in the last days before the May 29 election had covered the country with stickers saying: "Netanyahu. It's good for the Jews."