Thousands of demonstrators gathered Saturday evening for a pro-peace rally in Tel Aviv under the slogan, “Changing direction: toward peace, away from war.”
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The rally at Rabin Square comes two days after another demonstration expressing solidarity with residents of communities along the Gaza border.
Right-wing activists planned a counter-demonstration, which will be held nearby at the same time. The Israel Police is planning to keep the two camps apart.
At the main rally, which began at 8 P.M., speeches were slated to be made by author David Grossman, journalist Zuheir Bahloul, Meretz chairwoman Zahava Gal-On, Hadash chairman Mohammed Barakeh, a resident of Sderot, a representative of bereaved families and other left-wing activists.
The rally was originally due to take place last week, but was postponed at the request of the police and the Home Front Command, which prohibited gatherings of more than1,000 people at the time in the Tel Aviv area.
The event's Facebook page states that, “following a painful month of war and death, in view of waves of incitement and hatred that are tearing apart Israeli society, we call for a demonstration for peace and democracy. The next round (of violence) can be avoided. We don’t have to sink into an abyss of ever-crueler wars, of extreme hatred and a destruction of our neighbors and ourselves.
"Only an agreement will ensure long-term security and quiet for residents of the south and of the entire country. There is another way – immediate dialogue with Palestinians to ensure a fair peace, the opening of Gaza and a determined stand of Arabs and Jews against racism and for life. Only a two-state political solution will guarantee independence, justice, security and hope for all people living in this land.”
Speaking at the demonstration, Meretz chairperson Zahava Gal-On lashed out at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying, he has failed miserably, not as a result of this operation, but of refusing for five years to take the diplomatic path to peace.
Gal-On accused the prime minister of a "diplomatic freeze: refusing to adopt the Arab Peace Initiative; the so-called blowup of the talks with (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas) Abu Mazen after 9 months, the breakdown of U.S.-Israel relations, the refusal to recognize the Palestinian unity government, and the widely authorized building in the settlements, which destroyed any chances of a peace agreement with the Palestinians.”
She continued, “You could have achieved the framework you’re willing to accept now without paying the price of 64 dead soldiers and civilians, the death of 2,000 Palestinians, and the horrible destruction in Gaza, including almost half a million people uprooted from their homes.”
During his speech, author David Grossman, said “Neither side in this war has a victory picture. There are only indescribable images of death and destruction. Every image depicts defeat for both peoples.
"There is no military solution for the conflict between Israel and Hamas. There is no military solution that will end the suffering of Israelis in the south and the inhumane suffering of people in Gaza. People in Israel won’t be able to breathe freely either, until the stranglehold on Gaza is lifted."
Many streets in the area were closed during the rally.