MAALEH ADUMIM, West Bank (AP) — Thousands of Israelis, including ministers and lawmakers, protested Thursday against Secretary of State John Kerry's peace efforts and called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resist international pressure and press forth with more West Bank settlement construction.
The protesters marched from the Maaleh Adumim settlement east of Jerusalem to a sensitive area known as E-1 and demanded the construction begin at the site. The Palestinians say if construction commences there it will cut east Jerusalem off from the West Bank and make a future Palestinian state untenable. Responding to international pressure, Netanyahu has ordered the E-1 plans put on hold.
Kerry is expected to present his vision for a proposed agreement in the coming weeks. The pro-settler demonstration included several ministers and lawmakers from Netanyahu's Likud Party amid protesters who held signs calling Kerry a "persona non grata" who pressured Israel to make "suicidal concessions."
The Palestinians seek east Jerusalem and the West Bank, areas Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war, as part of their future independent state. More than 550,000 Israelis now live in those territories.
The international community opposes settlement construction, and Kerry has said it raises questions about Israel's commitment to peace. Despite the criticism, Israel has announced plans to build thousands of new settlement homes since peace talks resumed last July.
Those protesting Thursday though said it wasn't enough, highlighting the potential domestic opposition Netanyahu could face if he were to cede territory to the Palestinians.
"We will continue to build communities in all of Israel," said Cabinet Minister Yisrael Katz from Likud.
Housing Minister Uri Ariel from the pro-settler Jewish Home party also addressed the crowd, saying "between the Jordan and the Mediterranean there will only be one state — the state of Israel."
Also Thursday, Palestinian officials in the Gaza Strip said the Israeli military killed a 30-year-old man.
Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Kidra said the man was shot in the head as he was collecting scrap metal near the Israeli border. He said a second man with him was shot in the back and wounded.
The Israeli military said it opened fire after several Palestinians approached the border fence in northern Gaza and began "tampering" with the structure. It said after "exhausting all other means" to remove the men, it fired at the "main instigator."
Israel often fires at Palestinians who approach the border, fearing they are militants trying to carry out attacks.