Bereaved parents were the first to address the crowd.
Osnat Vishinsky, the mother of a soldier who was killed in Gaza, said, “We demand a leadership that is not cut off from the nation and that isn’t led by egos and political calculations.
“I call on the government to look into the eyes of the real losers of this failed war, the bereaved families, and ask us for forgiveness.”
Popular fiction author Meir Shalev said Olmert and Peretz had failed and must go home.
"We do not seek compensation, not even remorse for your sins of lack of judgment, your arrogance. You ran headfirst into battle with the gaiety of fresh recruits, without a plan or an objective. You squandered Israel's power of deterrence, you squandered our chances of bringing back the captives and worst of all – you squandered the lives of soldiers and civilians," he said.
Protesters at Rabin Square (photo: AFP)
Uzi Dayan, the chairman of the Tafnit (turnaround) Party, called on the prime minister to stop clinging to power and "to do the right thing: Resign."
"This square has seen happy and sad days and many demonstrations, but there have never been so many Israelis from across the spectrum, religious, secular, right, left, from the cities and from the countryside, the old and young. We are all brothers," Dayan said.
"The eyes of the enemies of Israel are also fixed on this square. Don't touch us, the fact that people have gathered here does not testify to Israel's weakness but rather its strength. It shows that our society is determined, full of hope and democratic," he added.
"Today this democracy faces a danger. A committee appointed by the prime minister has told him, 'Mr. Olmert you failed.' But our prime minister refuses to resign thereby undermining the democratic foundation of the country.
"Stop clinging to your chair. We won't forgive you if you break your promises. Olmert, do the right thing and resign."
The crowd responded, erupting in chants calling for Olmert to resign.
Addressing the prime minister, Dayan said, "Do you think that after what the Winograd Committee said, you can send soldiers to battle and take fateful decisions? The only one answer is you can't. The spins are over, the manipulations are over, don't stall for time you can no longer lead the country."
Ronny Zvigenbaum, the representative of reserve soldiers, said that the prime minister's failures were "unforgivable and written in blood."
"Today you are trying to hold on to your job. But we need to hold on to our lives. Every day you are in power, you endanger the State. Look at this full square prime minister, it says it all. We are not spin doctors for the government but ordinary citizens … and we call on you to resign," he said.
Speaking to Ynetnews, MK Ami Ayalon, a candidate for the Labor Party leadership, said he hopes the demonstration would help uproot the Olmert government.
"When 80-90 percent of this square is full with people calling on the government to resign the public's will should then be met with political action," he said.
Protesters making their way to Rabin Square (photo: Ofer Amram)
Similar sentiments were expressed by members of the political right. MK Gilad Erdan of Likud told Ynetnews it was time for the government to go, adding that he expected the Shas and Israel Our Home parties to actively join the anti-Olmert block.
'This is a government ruled by fear.' Tel Aviv rally (photo: Ofer Amram)
The demonstration was organized in the wake of a damning interim report on the handling of last summer's war with Hizbullah.
The Winograd Commission, appointed by Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz last September, censured both leaders for their flawed leadership during the war.
People from all walks of life poured into the square to convey their frustration with the way the government handled the war, calling for Olmert and Peretz to step down immediately.
Ohad, 18, from Beit Shean, said: "This is a government ruled by fear. They started a war because of the kidnapping but they didn't finished it properly. This is an indecisive, careless government that must go."
The war was sparked on July 12 by the kidnapping of two soldiers in a cross-border attack.