TEL AVIV (Sep. 4)
At least 50,000 Israelis marched and sang in Tel Aviv Saturday night in a massive demonstration by the Peace Now movement to urge Premier Menachem Begin to show flexibility at the Camp David summit meeting. The demonstration, planned to coincide with Begin’s departure for the U.S. yesterday, drew huge crowds to the municipal plaza. The police estimate put the number at about 40,000 but foreign newsmen said 70,000-80,000 was a more likely figure.
The demonstration brought out not only local residents but thousands of kibbutzniks from all parts of the country. Only the Hashomer Hatzair kibbutz movement marched under its own banner. Members of other movements came as individuals because those movements declined to associate themselves officially with the Peace Now advocates on grounds that to do so would weaken the government on the eve of crucial peace talks.
The event was well organized. The marchers carried signs in English, French and German as well as Hebrew, for the benefit of foreign television cameras. “Peace is better than a piece of land” was one of the most popular slogans. Englarging on that theme, MK Shulamit Aloni of the Civil Rights Movement told the throng, “We are here to show that Begin does not have a consensus regarding the occupation of Judaea and Samaria.”
Other slogans said, “Compromise is not a dirty word” and “Don’t miss peace at Camp David.” Cables of encouragement were received from the Nobel Prize-winning American author Saul Bellow and from Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, former President of the American Jewish Congress.
PEACE NOW ADVOCATES ATTACKED
In Jerusalem, several hundred ultra-Orthodox Jews led by Rabbi Uri Blau attacked busloads of Peace Now advocates Saturday afternoon as they prepared to leave for the peace rally in Tel Aviv. The rock-throwing zealots converged at the Jerusalem Convention Hall parking lot where five buses were waiting to take on passengers. Windshields were smashed and several drivers were injured.
Police arriving on the scene were met with a barrage of stones and had to use force to disperse the attackers. Seven were arrested and held for questioning. Border police units were sent to the ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim quarter to prevent a renewal of the incident.
It was reported, meanwhile, that a number of reserve officers among the 100 who signed a letter two weeks ago declaring that they would refuse to guard settlements on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, have apparently changed their minds. Chief of Staff Gen. Rafael Eitan has received letters from an undisclosed number of the reservists stating that they “will obey every order” from their military superiors while on reserve duty. The original letter, which created a furore in Israel, was a means of dramatizing the reservists’ protests against Premier Menachem Begin’s settlement policies.