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Thousands Rally in Favor of Israeli Talks with PLO

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There are only 25 members in the Knesset opposition bloc, but those to the left of center may be more in tune with public opinion than the new Likud-Labor coalition government they oppose.

That was indicated by the scores of thousands of Israelis who turned out for a Peace Now rally in a heavy downpour Saturday night, urging the government to talk to the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The crowd huddling under umbrellas in Malchei Yisrael Square, outside the City Hall, was almost as large as the expected turnout in good weather.

Their morale may have been boosted by a poll published Friday, which showed that 54 percent of Israelis favor talks with the PLO.

The rally was addressed by opposition Knesset members Shulamit Aloni of the Citizens Rights Movement, Amnon Rubinstein of the Center-Shinui Movement, Victor Shemtov and Elazar Granot of Mapam and Abd el-Wahab Darousha of the Arab Democratic List.

There were also several speakers from the Labor Party, including Arie Eliav and Yael Dayan.

They castigated the previous government and the new coalition for rejecting even the idea of negotiations with the PLO. They believe the latest statements by PLO leader Yasir Arafat represent a move forward that at least should be tested.

The poll was conducted by the Dahaf organization last week, among a sampling of 653 Israelis.

According to the results, published in Yediot Achronot, 21 percent strongly support talks with the PLO in light of Arafat’s remarks in Geneva and assuming his renunciation of terrorism is genuine.

Another 33 percent unconditionally favor talks with the PLO. On the other side, 20 percent of the respondents are against negotiations with the PLO and 24 percent are absolutely opposed.

Two percent had no opinion.

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