TEL AVIV (Jul. 19)
Likud held a mass pre-election rally in the square outside the town hall last night. It drew between 50,000-80,000 people, all Likud enthusiasts. But the man whose appearance was most devoutly hoped for and eagerly anticipated — former Premier Menachem Begin — did not show up. Yet each mention of his name drew wild cheers.
Likud activists had been hinting all week that Begin would break his self-imposed seclusion to rally the party to victory in next Monday’s Knesset elections. But the former Premier, who has shunned public appearances since his retirement nearly a year ago, did not even send a message.
Two of his surrogates drew thunderous applause, Deputy Premier David Levy and former Defense Minister Ariel Sharon. They were greeted with chants of “David, King of Israel” and “Arik, Arik, Arik, King of Israel,” respectively. “Arik” is Sharon’s nickname. The speakers were chiefly from the Herut wing of Likud. The absence of leaders of its Liberal Party wing was explained as “due to other appearances elsewhere.” All speakers heaped scorn on the Labor Alignment and the name of Shimon Peres was roundly jeered.
Nevertheless, Premier Yitzhak Shamir repeated his offer of a Labor-Likud national unity government. Peres has rejected the idea, Shamir charged, because he is more interested in the good of his party than the good of the country.
The Likud tum-out last night was poor compared to the 400,000 people who packed the same square two years ago at a Peace Now demonstration demanding an investigation of the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps massacre.