Tel Aviv, Israel Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak made an impassioned plea to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on Saturday to return to the negotiating table and stop the Palestinian-Israeli bloodshed for the sake of peace.
"I call on Yasser Arafat: Don't let the radicals lead you along the path of pain and suffering for both peoples. You are able to stop the deterioration and bloodshed," Barak said to the applause of more than 50,000 Israelis at a peace rally commemorating the fifth anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
"From here, tonight, now I call on you to put an end to violence and stretch your hand to peace of the brave, of respecting and implementing agreements," he said.
It was Barak's first such appeal to Arafat since Israeli-Palestinian violence broke out more than five weeks ago. The violence has claimed close to 170 lives, most of them Palestinian, in the worst bloodshed since the sides began peace talks in 1993.
In an excerpt from an interview conducted Wednesday in Gaza that will air tonight on CBS's "60 Minutes," Arafat rejected the claim that he could effectively stop the bloodshed, saying Israel is to blame.
Both Barak and Arafat accepted White House invitations for separate meetings, most likely to be held next weekend, Clinton administration officials said Saturday.
Barak, surrounded by guards, addressed Israeli peace supporters who flocked to the rally to remember Rabin, the warrior who led his nation to accept the inevitability of peace with the Palestinians.
The demonstration on the former Kings of Israel Square in downtown Tel Aviv, now Rabin Square, was meant to send a strong message that Rabin's dream was not killed by the recent bloodshed.
Many in the huge crowd were young people, some of them sitting on the ground in circles around burning candles. Naama Litvak, 17, said she and her friends miss Rabin.
"It is a personal loss that we feel," she said.
During a similar peace rally exactly five years ago, Rabin was shot at that very spot by a Jewish ultranationalist who opposed his course of trading land for peace. Now, amid the violence, many are questioning Rabin's legacy while others say negotiations are the only choice.
"We really don't know the way. We are one country but two people, Israelis and Arabs," said 49-year-old teacher Gafen Dolev-Doha, while memorial candles flickered around her at the square. "Rabin went a long way of war and blood but then thought, maybe there is another, better way."