By Jacob Magid
6 June 2020,
Thousands of Israelis attend a protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank, at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, June 6, 2020. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Protesters gather in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on June 6, 2020, to denounce Israel’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)
Thousands of Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv Saturday evening to protest Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pledge to begin annexing parts of the West Bank next month.
Police initially sought to block the rally but backtracked Friday after meeting with organizers, who urged participants to wear masks and adhere to social distancing guidelines.
Dozens of officers were securing the demonstration after police said attendance would be capped at 2,000, though the Haaretz daily put turnout at 6,000 people in what appeared to be the largest protest in the country since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
The demonstration was organized by the left-wing Meretz party and the communist Hadash faction of the majority-Arab Joint List, along with several other left-wing rights groups.
MK Nitzan Horowitz, the head of Meretz, told the crowd that annexation would be a “war crime” and would cost Israel millions as the economy is already reeling due to the pandemic.
“We cannot replace an occupation of dozens of years with an apartheid that will last forever,” shouted a hoarse Horowitz. “Yes to two states for two peoples, no to violence and bloodshed,” he continued. “No to annexation, yes to peace.”
Horowitz said “annexation is a war crime, a crime against peace, a crime against humanity, a crime that will result in bloodshed.”
He called out Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and Economy Minister Amir Peretz, accusing them of “raising their hands and crawling to the other side.”
The three center-left lawmakers had pledged not to sit in a government with Netanyahu, citing the premier’s indictment on graft charges, but after Israel’s third inconclusive election in March agreed to join him in a coalition.
The coalition deal signed between Netanyahu’s Likud party and Gantz’s Blue and White allows the prime minister to begin moving forward with annexation on July 1. The parts of the West Bank that Israel will extend sovereignty over are those earmarked for it under US President Donald Trump’s peace plan.
“You have no mandate to approve this apartheid. You have no mandate to bury peace,” Horowitz yelled. The Meretz head claimed Netanyahu was being pushed to carry out the controversial move by the “messianic” Trump administration.