Tens of thousands of Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square in support of the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Saturday night, May 27, in a demonstration organized to voice opposition to Israel’s 50-year-long occupation of the Palestinian territories. Tweeted live under the hashtag #50isEnough, the event featured Israeli speakers and performances by artists, including the well-known Balkan Beat Box and singer Achinoam Nini.
Hadash MK Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint List, said before the assembled crowd: “I chose to be here today, because I believe we must find a way to fight together… Now, in the face of the increasingly radical right-wing government, a government that uses minorities as a punching bag, a government that incites again and again… now, in the face of annexation plots, and racist and anti-democratic legislation… we must form a public democratic camp around our common principles — with a clear call for the end of the occupation, for equality, democracy and social justice for all citizens.”
Odeh said that for coexistence to be possible,”I must respect and accept your national identity. You must do so as well. This partnership can only be built from mutual respect and an acceptance of the identities of each and every one of us.” He added: “In order to bring about change, we need courage. We must have the courage to fight together for the future we believe in.”
A message from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) was read during the rally, which read: “There isn’t a voice stronger than the voice of just and inclusive peace, just like there isn’t a voice stronger than the right of people for self-determination and freedom from the burden of occupation… The time has come to live, you and us, in peace, harmony, security and stability. The only way to end the conflict and the fight against terror in the region and the entire world is a solution of two states based on the 1967 borders, Palestine alongside Israel.”
Abbas’ message continued: “We’ve accepted the decisions of the UN, recognized Israel and accepted the two-state solution, and the world has recognized the state of Palestine. Now the time has come for the State of Israel to recognize our state and end the occupation. The opportunity still exists, and it cannot be missed when our hand is extended in peace that is created between those who are brave.”
One of the first speakers at the demonstration was Peace Now’s Director General Avi Buskila, who addressed the crowd saying, “We, here in this square, are the hope of Israel. It is time for a Palestinian state alongside Israel.”
In her speech, Meretz party chairwoman Zehava Galon criticized Netanyahu saying: “He lies when he tells us for a decade already that he can manage the conflict, that ‘there’s no other choice,’ and, ‘there’s no way out,’ and, ‘there’s no partner.’ He gets close, shows no courage or political initiative and flees responsibility or taking any risks. We must destroy this lie because it’s only made for his political survival.” According to Galon, “The Israeli public supports compromise, an end to the occupation and says yes to two states for two peoples.”
Opposition leader and Labor Party head MK Isaac Herzog, who was booed as he came on stage and again during his speech, accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of missing the opportunity to move forward with a peace process last year. “The leadership in Israel today is driven first and foremost by fear,” said Herzog. “Fear of change; fear of daring; fear of initiative and fear of hope. Israel’s prime minister is the chief fear-monger.”
Herzog referred to US President Donald Trump, saying, “Those who thought that the chances for hope would be buried with the [presidential] election in the US today understands that while the president of America has changed, the reality has not. And this week we saw an American president here who’s determined to bring peace between us and the Palestinians … a president who understands what his predecessors understood,” Haaretz quoted Herzog.
Herzog, who was booed again when he called for the creation of a political bloc with right-wing Yair Lapid’s party “that doesn’t want half democracy; a large political bloc that wants a Zionist, Jewish, democratic state that gives full equality to minorities and is open to a variety of opinions.”
A press release by Peace Now on Friday said, “This is the main and most significant event organized by the peace camp to mark 50 years of occupation and military rule over the Palestinians. The statement quoted Buskila as saying, “we will take to the streets to protest against the lack of hope offered to us by the right wing government, which perpetuates occupation, violence, and racism. This is the time to demonstrate to Israelis, to the Palestinians, and to the world that a large portion of the Israeli public opposes the occupation and seeks to arrive at a two state solution. A clear message will come out of Rabin Square: Yes to hope, yes to two states, no to occupation, no to annexation, and yes to a better future for both Israelis and Palestinians.”
Another mass demonstration against Israel’s 50-year-long occupation of the Palestinian territories will be held by Hadash (Democratic Front for Peace and Equality) and the Communist Party of Israel on next Monday night, June 5, in Haifa.
According to a poll released Friday by Israel’s Channel 2 news, 47 percent of Israelis still support a two-state solution based on 1967 borders, while 39 percent said they are opposed, and 14 percent said they do not know.