Dozens of Arab-Israeli leaders and activists protested on Sunday across from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office in Jerusalem, demanding Israel immediately halt its 16-day military operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The protest was organized by the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee. Israel and the United States "want to eliminate the Palestinian causeâ€¦.to turn it into a humanitarian issue, but it's an issue of national liberation," said MK Ibrahim Sarsour (UAL-Ta'al), who is head of the southern branch of the Islamic Movement. "We reject this attempt to convert the issue into a humanitarian issue that requires a kilo of flour or a kilo of sugar," he added. "It's an issue of national liberation that must result in the establishment of a fully sovereign Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem and the return of refugees to their homelandâ€¦.This is the issue and all that Israel does today is to abort this concept." MK Ahmed Tibi (UAL-Ta'al), who also attended the protest, argued that Israel's military campaign against militants could not be successful. "I understand the need for quiet but we don't achieve quiet through war, but by renewing the agreement for a tahadiyeh (calm), and opening the crossings and stopping the siege on Gaza," he said. School teacher Abdel Salam Kadah, who lives in Beersheba, said he knows first hand the danger of living under a barrage of rockets launched from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. In fact, Kadah could not go to school on Sunday because his school had been closed to protect the lives of the students and teachers, he said. But Kadah, a member of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, said he also believed that the firing of rockets would stop once Israel's blockade was lifted on the Gaza Strip and Palestinians achieved their national aspirations. "If there was a Palestinian state, and the Palestinians were given all their rightsâ€¦there would be no need to launch rockets," he said. On Sunday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the government was determined to change the security situation and defend its residents in the south, who had suffered years of rocket fire and "whose lives had become intolerable." "For many years, we've demonstrated restraint," he said. "We bit our lips and took barrage after barrage. No country in the world - not even those who preach morality to us - would have shown similar patience and self control."