Thousands of Israelis, including soldiers, parents of fallen soldiers and relatives of Hamas hostages, took part in a rally on Thursday in front of the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem.
The rally concluded a five-day cross-country march titled, “Victory March: Keep Going Until IDF Victory,” organized by Reservists Until Victory, a group established by Israeli reservists who served in the Gaza Strip and along Israel’s border with Lebanon since Oct. 7.
Both the march and the concluding rally called on Israel to continue the war against Hamas in Gaza until achieving a decisive victory.
Galit Waldman, the mother of Maj. Ariel Ben Moshe, 27, a commander in the Sayeret Matkal unit who was killed in action in Kibbutz Re’im on Oct. 7, and Hila Baruch Lilian, a resident of Sderot and a representative of the Otef Israel Forum of residents of the Gaza surrounding communities, addressed the protesters in Jerusalem.
Eliyahu Liebman, whose son Elyakim Liebman, 24, was kidnapped by Hamas into Gaza, and Itzik Bunzel, the father of Sgt. Amit Bunzel, 22, a Paratrooper from Shoham who was killed in action in central Gaza on Dec. 6, also addressed the crowd.
“Amit was a soldier in the Israel Defense Forces, and his job was to return the kidnapped,” Bunzel said in his speech. “If I had the chance to talk to him I would have told him: Amit, my son, don’t hesitate, kill as many terrorists as possible, do everything you can to return the kidnapped.”
“Amit, unfortunately, will not return, but other soldiers are still fighting and I want to say to them that they keep fighting until victory,” he continued.
“Our enemies should know that the IDF is a winning army and not one that hesitates,” added the bereaved father.
Gilad Ach, one of the organizers of the march, told JNS that “every day, hundreds of people marched with us, including soldiers, parents of deceased soldiers and parents of hostages held in Gaza. Our message resonated with the majority of the Israeli population.”
“In the past two weeks, talks of a permanent ceasefire and withdrawal of troops raised the alarm. Israelis understand the impact that ending the war now could have on our future,” said Ach, the CEO of the Ad Kan (“It Stops Now”) organization, founded in 2015 by a group of IDF security personnel to fight anti-Israel bias.
Ach also explained that while many members of the Israeli government wanted to take part in the march, the group decided to remain apolitical.
“Our initiative is not connected to any political ideology, that is the reason why it gathered consensus within the Israeli public. Anything other than ending the war in unequivocal victory will make it extremely problematic for Israelis to continue living here,” he said.
Vered Vaspi Zabri, from Yesod Hamaala, a village in northern Israel near Kiryat Shmona, was among the marchers, walking 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) earlier this week.
“I lost my father in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, I lost my brother in the First Lebanon War in 1982, and I just lost my son in this one,” she told JNS, speaking of her son, Cpt. (res.) Arnon Moshe Avraham Benvenisti Vaspi, 26, an officer in the Givati Brigade’s Reconnaissance Battalion who fell in combat in Gaza on Nov. 20.
“Why would you send my son to war if you are not planning on finishing it? A few years from now, more people will die in terror attacks and more soldiers will fall in battle. There is no alternative to defeating our enemy, whose only reason for existing is to kill Jews,” she added.
At the beginning of the war, Vered took care of reserve soldiers stationed in northern Israel.
“For three months, I provided them with food, clothing and everything I could,” she said. “Now that they are asking for the State of Israel not to cede to Hamas’s demands, I am with them,” she added.
“Each one of these soldiers has a family, a wife and children, as well as a business which they all left behind. None of them wanted this war,” she said. “They are risking their lives and yet they call on the government to keep fighting, not for revenge but for our existence.”
In a message released ahead of the rally, Reservists Until Victory explained: “During their service, soldiers experienced great frustration at concessions that undermined military achievements. We are returning to a strategy that could lead to further Hamas attacks soon.”
The message also included a video featuring Bunzel, who relates that he found among his son’s belongings a notebook in which Amit wrote: “This time we must win. We must end it [the war in Gaza] with a crushing victory.”
Groups partnering with Reservists Until Victory include the Tikva Forum, co-founded by Tzvika Mor, whose son Eitan, 23, is currently being held by Hamas in Gaza and who opposes the government reaching a deal “at any price.”
“I hear people say that the government of Israel should be ready to pay any price,” Mor told JNS last week. “Did they ask the Israeli public if they are willing to sacrifice everything? Besides, where do they draw the line? Do you agree to send ammunition [to Hamas] as well?” he asked.
Also participating are Mothers of IDF Soldiers, a coalition of women protesting against U.S. pressure to increase the flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza; and Lobby 1701, which represents evacuees from the north and calls on Washington to back a military operation to distance the Iran-backed Hezbollah terrorist organization from the border with Lebanon.
Many of the participants are spearheading ongoing protests aimed at preventing supplies from passing from Israel into Gaza.
Hamas said it “dealt with the proposal in a positive spirit, ensuring a comprehensive and complete ceasefire, ending the aggression against our people, ensuring relief, shelter and reconstruction, lifting the siege on the Gaza Strip and completing a prisoner exchange.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an address on Wednesday that Israel will not agree to the terror group’s “delusional demands” in exchange for releasing the 136 remaining hostages being held in the Gaza Strip.
Bowing to the terrorist organization’s demands will lead to another massacre and a “major disaster” that no Israeli citizen will accept, he emphasized, speaking from his office in Jerusalem.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who arrived in Israel on Tuesday after visiting with foreign-policy officials in Qatar, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, told reporters on Wednesday night that while there are some “clear non-starters” in Hamas’s response to the renewed hostages-for-ceasefire framework proposed by mediators, it “creates space for an agreement to be reached.”
Despite U.S. pressure, Israel has repeatedly rejected proposals for a long-term or permanent ceasefire and maintains that it will continue toward its goals of eradicating Hamas, returning the hostages still being held captive and ensuring that Gaza can never again pose a threat to the Jewish state.