TEL AVIV (Jul. 18)
Prime Minister Menachem Begin promised an enthusiastic audience here last night that he would sign a peace treaty with Lebanon by the end of this year and would thereafter propose to Jordan’s King Hussein that their two countries set up a “free confederation” between Jordan and Israel.
Begin was addressing a rally, estimated by its organizers to number between 200,000 and 250,000, in support of the war in Lebanon, the government, and the army.
Police declined to provide a crowd estimate, after severe criticism from government spokesmen of a Peace Now rally two weeks ago, when an unidentified senior police officer had put the crowd then at about 100,000.
Peace Now leaders protested to Israel Television that it provided live coverage for last night’s rally after having severely restricted coverage of the anti-war meeting. Israel Broadcasting Authority spokesmen said last night’s full coverage was just because of the earlier criticism of restricted coverage.
CROWD FROM ALL PARTS OF THE COUNTRY
The Peace Now rally had been organized at short notice by a group of unaffiliated protesters. Last night’s rally was organized by representatives of all coalition parties, meeting at Herut Party headquarters in Tel Aviv, with buses pressed into service to bring a crowd from all parts of the country, including Gush Emunim West Bank settlements and yeshivot. Loudspeaker vans had toured the Tel Aviv area for days, urging residents to attend.
Begin was greeted by the emotional crowd which chanted: ‘Begin, Begin, Begin ” and “Begin, King of Israel.” Together with Begin on the platform were Defense Minister Ariel Sharon and Interior Minister Yosef Burg, all Cabinet ministers and most coalition Knesset members. The meeting was held under the chairmanship of Tel Aviv Mayor Shlomo Lahat, who had ordered the municipal building lit up, as a backdrop to the rally.
WILD APPLAUSE FOR BEGIN
Begin received wild applause when he warned Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini, “that old man threatening us from the East”, against trying to march on Jerusalem, saying his army would be met by the Israel Air Force half way and wiped out.
Sharon offered to give “temporary asylum in Israel” to any PLO men inside west Beirut if they could prove they had not taken part in terrorist activities. He said their stay in Israel would give a chance to other countries to agree to accept them permanently. Begin, noting that Arafat was quoted as saying in Beirut that he was “waiting for Sharon,” warned: “Beware, Arafat. Sharon may accept your invitation.” This was greeted by wild applause.