Peace Now (Shalom Achshav, in Hebrew)

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PEACE NOW (Shalom Achshav, in Hebrew)

Israeli pacifist movement, the largest extra-parliamentary movement in Israel and the country's oldest peace movement. It was founded in March 1978, during the Israeli-Egyptian peace talks. When these negotiations faltered, a large group of reserve officers from the Israeli army published an open letter to the prime minister, calling on the government to make sure that the opportunity for peace was not lost. Tens of thousands of Israelis sent in support for the letter, leading to the establishment of an ongoing organization of citizens who view peace, compromise, and reconciliation with the Palestinian people and the Arab states as essential to the future of Israel.

This movement achieved prominence in 1982, when it organized massive demonstrations against the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and the involvement of Israeli forces in the massacres at the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. Its 1982 rally in Tel Aviv assembled over 250,000 demonstrators (by some estimates, 400,000). Peace Now also drew the attention and ire of right-wing extremists. In 1983, during a demonstration calling for the dismissal of then-minister of defense Ariel Sharon, a hand grenade was thrown at the demonstrators, killing activist Emil Grunzweig and wounding seven others.

A majority of Peace Now's membership is drawn from among Meretz Party voters, though it has declined suggestions to become an established political party itself, aiming instead for broad cross-party support. In August 1999, a former leader of the movement, Yaʿel Tamir, was named minister of immigrant absorption in the Labor government of Ehud Barak.

After the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the subsequent decline of the peace process, Peace Now focused on its Settlement Watch project, monitoring and protesting settlement activities in disputed areas. It considers the occupation of Palestinian territory extremely harmful to Israel, both economically and morally. Peace Now condemns the use of violence on either side of the conflict. Discouraged by the violence of the al-Aqsa Intifada of September 2000 and the Israeli government's stiff military response, its members nonetheless have continued to campaign for peace, creating the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Coalition, and conducting joint activities with the Palestinian People's Campaign.

SEE ALSO Barak, Ehud;Tamir, Yaʿel.