West Bank protester punished

JERUSALEM — An Israeli court has issued what appears to be the first indictment against a protester since Jewish settlers launched their latest wave of demonstrations against Israel's peace initiatives with the Palestinians.

The Rehovot Magistrates Court found Moshe Feiglin guilty of disorderly conduct and ordered him to pay a $3,300 fine or face a 10-month prison sentence. He was also given a six-month suspended prison sentence.

Feiglin is a leader of the right-wing group Zo Artzeinu, or "This is Our Land."

Zo Artzeinu organized protests last week where right-wing Israelis engaged in shoving matches with police and blocked roads throughout Israel, causing rush-hour traffic jams.

Police spokesman Eric Bar-Chen said Feiglin was arrested after refusing a police order to move out of the street.

Of 150 demonstrators arrested after protests on Tuesday of last week, Bar-Chen said 25 remained in detention for at least 48 hours. Others might have charges pressed against them, he said.

Feiglin, slapped with the fine a day after the demonstrations, said he would not pay.

"We have entered a stage of real passive civil disobedience, where you're willing to accept the price of what you do. I'd rather sit in jail" than pay the fine, Feiglin told Israel Radio.

"I believe this is the right thing to do," he added.

Meanwhile, some opposition members criticized demonstrators for blocking roads.

Rafael Eitan, leader of the far-right Tsomet Party, said disrupting traffic could alienate Israelis previously sympathetic to the settlers' stance.

Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu said he understood the demonstrators' motives, but maintained that they should remain within bounds of the law.

Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said the protesters could not force changes in government policy through their actions.

"These are issues for the Knesset and the Knesset alone to decide," he said. "You cannot lie on the road and say `We replace the Knesset.'"