100,000 Demonstrate in Tel Aviv Against War in Lebanon

An estimated 100,000 people jammed Tel Aviv’s municipal square Saturday night in the biggest anti-war demonstration since Israel invaded Lebanon on June 6. The rally, called by the Peace Now movement, was heavily guarded by police after anonymous telephone calls to local newspapers warned that pro-government forces would open fire on the demonstration.

But no incidents were reported but a score of counter-demonstrators shouting “Begin, Begin” were arrested for threatening to disturb the peace.

Speakers at the Peace Now rally included reserve officers just released from active duty after fighting in Lebanon. They called for the removal of Defense Minister Ariel Sharon and an end of the war. According to the speakers, the government has gone far beyond the national consensus which was to drive the Palestine Liberation Organization forces 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Israel’s borders in order to protect northern Israel from rocket and artillery attack.

Speakers urged the government not to order an attack on PLO forces holding out in west Beirut which, they said, would be an act for removed from Israel’s defense and security needs.

Despite the size of the rally, it was dismissed by the government. Cabinet Secretary Dan Meridor told reporters after the weekly Sunday session that “The Prime Minister said the government would not be influenced in any way by demonstrations organized by Mapam or its surrogate, Peace Now.” According to Meridor, Premier Menachem Begin observed that the government won the confidence of the people in the last elections and was “determined to move ahead with its efforts designed to oust the PLO from Beirut and Lebanon.”

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