Israelis Rally Against West Bank Annexation Plan (with VIDEO)
Joint List head Odeh on rally: ‘It gives support and confidence to the international rejection of the plan and to annexation’
Thousands of Israelis rallied in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on Saturday night in protest of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank.
The crowd, estimated at around 6,000 people, waved Israeli and Palestinian flags and held signs reading “annexation equals apartheid,” “we have to love one another,” and “Palestinian lives matter.”
The event, organized by the left-wing Hadash and Meretz parties, as well as a number of NGOs representing the Jewish and Arab Israelis, condemned Netanyahu’s plan, saying it will fuel more unrest in the region.
Dr. Thabet Abu Rass. co-executive director of the Abraham Initiatives, told The Media Line, “We are witnessing a deterioration of democracy and a creeping apartheid inside Israel.”
Abu Rass said that if the Israeli government moves ahead with its plans for annexation, it will destroy any chance left for a future peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
“The demonstration is a building stone for a future Jewish-Arab coalition. I think it’s very important to build such a coalition together against the outrageous and illegal moves by the Trump Administration and the current Israeli government led by Netanyahu.”
Israeli parliament member Nitzan Horowitz, head of the left-wing Meretz party, told the crowd that annexation would be a “war crime” and that Israel’s economy would suffer because of it.
“We cannot replace an occupation of dozens of years with an apartheid that will last forever,” Horowitz told the crowd. “Yes to two states for two peoples, no to violence and bloodshed,” he continued. “No to annexation, yes to peace.”
US Senator and former Democratic Party presidential candidate Bernie Sanders spoke via video, injecting the gathering with the civil rights agenda that is finding traction in the US.
“In these difficult days for Israel, the United States and countries around the world, it has never been more important to stand up for justice and to fight for the future we all deserve. I am extremely heartened to see that so many of you, Arabs and Jews alike, are standing together for peace, justice and democracy,” said Sanders.
In the two-minute video message, Sanders demanded that annexation be stopped.
“The occupation must be ended,” he said.
Sanders called on all to “stand up to authoritarian leaders and work together to build a peaceful future for every Palestinian and every Israeli,” adding, “I know that on the day when we finally celebrate the establishment of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel it will be because people like you stood up for justice, stood up for democracy and stood up for human rights.”
Hadash Chairman and Joint List head Ayman Odeh, who didn’t attend because he’s in quarantine due to the coronavirus, invited Senator Sanders to speak to the crowd.
Odeh told The Media Line that he was pleased with the attendance, saying this rally was “just the beginning.”
“It is the largest demonstration against annexation and occupation since the announcement of the ‘deal of the century.’ It gives support and confidence to the international rejection of the plan and of annexation.”
David Harel, who holds the William Sussman Professorial Chair in the Weizmann Institute’s Computer Science and Applied Mathematics Department, told The Media Line that he came to the event to stand up for what he believes in.
“I will fight for equality and I will fight for democracy and I will fight strongly for ending the occupation. I will support negotiation but not the Trump plan that doesn’t take the other side into account.”
Harel said the people here sent a loud and clear message that they are “against the occupation and annexation.”
Harel said he wished to deliver messages to the Israeli government and to the Palestinians, as well. To the former, he said: “Please do everything in your power to stop the occupation and annexation now and start peace talks and negotiation.” And to the latter: “We are with you, we are shoulder to shoulder, we will fight. You have to fight for yourself but we’ll fight together with you in order to bring peace to the area.”
Harel urged members of the international community to shoulder their responsibilities and called on them “to do everything in their power to stop the annexation.”
“Boycott the settlements and their products and criticize the Israeli government’s policy,” he urged.
Ruwaida Abou Ras, a lecturer at Beit Berl College, told The Media Line that sitting down at the negotiation table is the only way forward.
“I believe that Palestinians and Israelis should reconcile and reach a peace agreement that’s just and fair. Trump should not impose his shortsighted vision on us. We live together and we would like to live in peace together. Therefore, the Israeli and Palestinian leaders should sit together to reach a solution based on two states.”
Last month, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas canceled all agreements with Israel, including security coordination, as a result of Israel’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank. King Abdullah II of Jordan spoke out against the possible plan, saying it would lead to a “massive conflict.” Aside from the United States, most world powers have expressed their strong opposition to the plan.