Last updated: 4 March, 2015

Israeli women protest for peace ahead of election

Thousands of Israeli women, including Jews and Arabs, gathered outside parliament in Jerusalem Wednesday urging a peace agreement with the Palestinians, two weeks ahead of a snap general election.

Despite intermittent rain, members of Women Wage Peace, a group formed after last year’s devastating war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas, were huddled a short distance from the Knesset.

“We will vote for a peace deal,” and “We choose life,” they chanted, brandishing banners.

Israelis go to the polls on March 17, in a vote that looks set to bring rightwing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a fourth term in office.

“Two weeks ahead of the elections, we’ve heard no word on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. No candidates have given their verdict on the issue,” Irit Keinan said in a speech to the rally.

“We’ve suffered through enough wars,” she said.

“Among us are young women, mothers and grandmothers, people who will raise our children — the next generation of soldiers who will be forced to go to war. It’s enough!”

Israel’s 50-day military campaign against Gaza killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians, a quarter of them children, and militant fire killed 73 on the Israeli side, mostly soldiers.

The speech met rapturous applause from secular and religious women alike who attended the protest.

The campaign for Netanyahu’s Likud party has focused on external threats it says face Israel, including Iran’s nuclear programme and Syria, whose civil war has brought jihadist fighters to the frontier with its northern neighbour.

Centre-left parties have slammed rising living costs under Netanyahu, but most parties have steered clear of the Palestinian conflict.

“All we’ve heard about is Iran,” said Hamutal Guri, a mother of two also addressing the crowd, a day after Netanyahu railed against Tehran in a speech to the US Congress in Washington.

“For women, security means economic, social and physical security. We live in a militarised society where the conflict is always present, creating aggressiveness that permeates every aspect of life,” she said.

Women Wage Peace has some 7,000 members, its leaders say.