Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv Saturday night to protest the US Middle East peace proposal and government plans to annex territory in the West Bank.
Organizers from the Peace Now anti-settlement group said thousands marched in the demonstration at Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Square, held under the banner of “Peace plan, not annexation deal.”
“Annexation is a disaster, no peace, no security,” protesters chanted, while holding up signs decrying Israel’s 52-year occupation of the West Bank and against “transfer,” referring to a part of the plan that opens up the possibility of drawing the border of a future Palestinian state to include several Arab-Israeli towns.
The plan, unveiled Tuesday, grants Israel control over Jerusalem as its “undivided” capital, rules out the return of Palestinian refugees to Israeli territory and envisions all West Bank settlements coming under full Israeli sovereignty. It allows for the creation of a demilitarized Palestinian state on some 70 percent of the West Bank, Gaza and part of the western Negev, but only in four years time if certain conditions are met.
It has been roundly rejected by the Palestinians, who on Saturday won unanimous backing backing for their position from the Arab League, potentially sinking any White House hopes of buy-in from moderate Arab states.
“The Trump plan is not a peace plan,” Labor-Gesher-Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg said at the rally, according to Channel 12 news. “It is a proposal for annexation, transfer and a surefire recipe for violence and apartheid.”
Earlier in the day hundreds of people rallied against the plan in the Arab Israeli city of Baqa al-Gharbiye, which could become part of Palestine according to the plan.
“No one will deprive us of citizenship in the homeland where we were born,” said Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint List political party.
While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to swiftly apply sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and West Bank settlements, the government has since walked back those plans somewhat under US pressure, canceling a Sunday meeting where the annexation bid was slated to begin rolling.
On Saturday night, Yamina MK Ayelet Shaked said her right-wing party would “apply all the pressure it has on making sure the extension of sovereignty happens,” during a debate with Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz on Channel 12 news.
Horowitz responded that by annexing territory the government would destroy any chances of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“You want an annexed Israel that is not Jewish and not democratic — you are destroying the Zionist dream,” he charged.
“The fathers of Zionism would roll over in their graves if they saw you,” he added.
“David Ben-Gurion would roll over in his grave if he saw who the Labor Party joined,” she shot back, referring to Labor’s decision to join forces with the far-left Meretz ahead of elections on March 2.
Jacob Magid contributed to this report.