JERUSALEM (Jun. 16)
Premier Menachem Begin rejected a plea by a parents group for the immediate withdrawal of all Israeli troops from Lebanon today. Meeting for the first time with representatives of “Parents Against Silence,” one of several grass roots organizations that have been protesting the continued Israeli presence in Lebanon, Begin claimed that if a troop withdrawal was ordered, tens of thousand of Galilee residents would be exposed again to terrorist attacks.
Begin dismissed the argument that the Israeli army is “in a foreign country with no purpose” and urged the parents to support his government. The public is not divided between those who want “the boys to come home” and those who do not want it, Begin said.
A spokesman for the parents said afterwards that they had the impression Begin was sensitive to their appeal but was not ready to act on it. He said the group would continue its campaign to bring the army home from Lebanon.
Meanwhile, Likud MK Meir Cohen-Avidor continued his hunger strike near the Prime Ministers residence to protest against anti-war groups which he accused of “using the blood of fallen soldiers for political purposes. ” The anti-war demonstrators have been appearing outside the residence daily for nearly two months, holding up signs with the latest Israeli casualty figures in Lebanon. The number of fatalities passed the 500 mark last weekend.
Knesset Speaker Menachem Savidor and Deputy Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Dov Shilansky, tried to persuade Cohen-Avidor today to abandon his strike. They said he has already made his point. They also tried to convince the war protestors to take down their signs.