TEL AVIV (Mar. 13)
Tens of thousands of Israelis from all parts of the country packed Malchei Yisrael Square outside City Hall here Saturday night in a mass demonstration of support for the new American peace plan and the principle of trading territory for peace.
The rally, organized by Peace Now, urged Premier Yitzhak Shamir, who was to leave for Washington Sunday night, not to reject the proposals submitted to him by Secretary of State George Shultz.
Estimates of the size of the crowd ranged from 40,000 to 100,000. Most observers accepted the higher figure.
The demonstration was the first of a series of “happenings” organized by Peace Now to be held during Shamir’s nine-day stay in the United States. The next event was to be a 90-minute strike by Tel Aviv University faculty and students, scheduled for noon Sunday.
While Peace Now has demonstrated its ability to bring large crowds into the streets for political rallies, it is clear that the movement represents only one segment of an Israeli population that is sharply divided over the peace issue.
Another mass demonstration was to fill the same Tel Aviv square Sunday evening– this one organized by the Gush Emunin, the movement of militant Jewish settlers in the West Bank, and other nationalist elements.
Their message is one of support for Shamir’s rejection of the American plan. Their rallying cry is “say no to Shultz.”
The organizers said there would be a march and motorcade to Ben-Gurion Airport for Shamir’s departure, scheduled for midnight. But the police announced they would not allow political demonstrations at the airport.
The Likud bloc, which Shamir heads, decided at the last minute to support the Gush Emunim demonstration. The party reportedly was sending many of its leaders to address it.
The Peace Now rally sought to show that even victims of terrorist attacks support their pursuit of peace. Israeli actress Gila Almagor read a letter from a woman who was one of the 10 wounded in the March 7 terrorist attack on a bus in the Negev in which three Israelis were killed.
She wrote that during the ordeal, convinced she would not emerge alive, she scribbled a note to her daughter saying that if she did not return, her family should continue its own quest for peace.