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Israeli Demonstrations Draw 100,000

January 10, 2000

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) _ More than 100,000 Israelis filled Tel Aviv’s main square in pouring rain Monday to protest the government’s reported willingness to relinquish the Golan Heights for peace with Syria.

The protest came despite denials of any agreement for a withdrawal from Israel’s foreign minister, who had just returned from the U.S.-sponsored talks.

``There is no drawing of borders and there are no agreements,″ David Levy said at an airport news conference. ``We can certainly not speak of results.″

A return of the Golan Heights is Syria’s asking price for peace. Israel captured the strategic plateau in the 1967 Mideast war.

Prime Minister Ehud Barak has said Israel will have to make ``painful concessions″ for peace with the Syrians, and has promised to bring any agreement to a referendum. The protest rally was a sign of how hard selling an accord could be.

The crowd in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square did not reach the size of previous demonstrations for and against peace agreements _ up to 250,000 in some cases _ but were a success considering the weather. The crowd was mostly youthful, bearing banners proclaiming solidarity with the Golan Heights.

Two of Barak’s ministers joined the protest, as did several high-ranking officers.

Polls have shown that public support for a withdrawal has dropped since the talks began _ partly because of the coolness Syrian negotiators have shown their Israeli counterparts.

Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa led Syria’s delegation to the talks in Shepherdstown, W.Va.. The negotiations, which lasted a week, were the second round of talks after a break of almost four years.

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