With estimates ranging from 100,000 to 250,000 people present, by any reckoning it was a large turnout in Jerusalem Sunday night to protest Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s plan for a unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.
The demonstration was billed as a 24-hour affair, and hundreds of protesters did remain through the night.
Organizers said their purpose was to force Sharon to bring the pullout to a national referendum.
Member of Knesset (parliament) Uzi Landau, who was fired as a minister for disagreeing with Sharon about the withdrawal, told the crowd that whether one supports or opposes the withdrawal, “the rules of the game must be agreed upon” – apparently referring to charges that Sharon has acted undemocratically in pushing through his plan.
Sharon has reneged on a public pledge to be bound by a party referendum on the issue that he lost, fired ministers opposed to his plan, and reformulated his cabinet to reflect his desired end result.
Polls uniformly show a majority of Israelis in favor of the pullout. The massive rally remained peaceful throughout.