Peace Now Rejects Calls to Cancel Saturday Peace Protest

In response to a call from the settlers' Yesha Council to cancel a peace demonstration planned for Saturday evening, Peace Now Director Yariv Oppenheimer said Thursday the "demonstration is intended to save lives, and it therefore must be held at the time it was scheduled."

The demonstration, set for Tel Aviv's Rabin Square, will be restrained in character and will open with a minute of silence in memory of the 11 Israel Defense Forces soldiers killed in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday and Wednesday, Oppenheimer said.

The Yesha Council said "it is inappropriate to hold a rally at this time, while our slain soldiers have not even received their proper burials... The deaths of the soldiers should not be exploited for political gains. We need to be sensitive towards the grieving families who are wallowing in pain and sorrow."

Knesset Member Gila Finkelstein (National Religious Party) said on Thursday that holding the demonstration while the bodies of soldiers are still in the field disrespects both the dead and the families' sentiments.

MK Meir Porush (United Torah Judaism) said political debates must be put aside during a week of national mourning for the 11 fallen soldiers.

Labor Party Chairman MK Shimon Peres rejected the Yesha Council's call to cancel the demonstration and said the event's purpose is to save additional lives. The cynical attempt by the right wing to force its position upon the majority of the nation is shameful, Peres said.

A memorial and protest vigil, being held by the bereaved families of terror victims that began Thursday afternoon in Rabin Square, will continue through Saturday evening's mass demonstration. The Families' Forum, a project of the Bereaved Families Supporting Peace, Reconciliation and Tolerance, said they have paid the highest price and are not able to sit silent when 11 more families have joined their ranks.