TEL AVIV (Mar. 14)
Premier Yitzhak Shamir sounded a conciliatory note on the peace process as he left for the United States shortly after midnight, following a massive outpouring of support for his tough stand on the American peace plan.
The rally took place Sunday night in Malchei Yisrael Square, outside the Tel Aviv City Hall, where speaker after speaker urged the premier not to waver in his talks with Reagan administration officials.
Organizers of the rally claim it drew between 200,000 and 250,000 people, who packed the broad square and overflowed into side streets. Other observers questioned that estimate, but agreed the rally was twice as large as the one organized by Peace Now that filled the same square Saturday night.
The Peace Now demonstration backed the American plan and the formula of exchanging territory for peace. But that idea got a resounding “no” from the throngs gathered Sunday night. They represented Israel’s right wing, what is loosely termed the “nationalist camp,” consisting of supporters of Shamir’s Likud bloc and the Tehiya, Tzomet and Morasha parties.
The rally was originally organized by the Gush Emunim, the militant Jewish settlers in the West Bank. But it was taken over by the Likud, which sent its heavy artillery in the persons of Housing Minister David Levy and Commerce and Industry Minister Ariel Sharon.
The demonstrators carried placards reading: “Land for Peace–On No Grounds”; “Peace Yes, Retreat No”; “No to Shultz and No to Autonomy”; and “We Won’t Return Territory Because of Knives and Stones.”
In his remarks before taking off, Shamir told reporters he was going to Washington on a peace mission within the context of the friendship and cooperation between Israel and the United States.
“Our relationship with the U.S. has always been based on mutual understanding, common values and identical strategic and political interests,” Shamir said. “This time, the effort to bring nearer the peace between us and our neighbors will be on top of our agenda.”
NO PEOPLE WANTS PEACE MORE
Shamir said Israel “was, and is, always ready to stretch itself and to participate in negotiations about establishing peace in its areas, and no other people desires peace like us.
“We always welcome the readiness of the U.S. to assist us in getting this noble goal of peace. We are always ready to cooperate with the U.S. in efforts for peace, knowing that the way of the United States in its relationships with its allies and partners is not by pressure, but always by mutual understanding and friendly persuasion,” Shamir said.
Asked if he still stood by the Likud party platform not to give up any part of the administered territories, the premier replied, “The binding documents for our efforts to get peace are the Camp David agreements, and in those agreements we have committed ourselves to negotiations, at the end of the first stage of autonomy, about the final status of the territories of Gaza, Judea and Samaria.”
Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, who accompanied Shamir to the airport, told reporters later he would refrain from attacking him while he was abroad on his mission. He hinted that this was in contrast to Shamir’s attacks on him when he was on an official visit to Washington some months ago.
But on Monday, Peres accused Shamir’s Likud bloc of sabotaging every effort to persuade King Hussein of Jordan to enter into peace negotiations with Israel.