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Tens of thousands of Israelis attend 'two states one hope' demonstration in Tel Aviv

May 27, 2017 10:29 P.M. (Updated: May 28, 2017 11:59 A.M.)
'Two states one hope' rally in Tel Aviv (Peace Now)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The Israeli NGO Peace Now, an advocate of the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, organized a demonstration in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv on Saturday night, showcasing Israeli speakers and performances by Israeli artists, to voice opposition to Israel's 50-year-long occupation of the Palestinian territory.

Tens of thousands of Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square, according to Peace Now, which was live tweeting the event under the hashtag #50isEnough.

A message from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was read during the rally, which said: "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," Israeli daily Haaretz reported.

"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 reportedly said.

"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."

Ayman Odeh, the head of the Joint List coalition that represents Palestinian citizens of Israel at the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, delivered a speech, saying that "The state which I am a citizen of occupies my people. We must free both peoples of the occupation," according to Peace Now's Twitter.

Odeh, the only Palestinian mentioned by Peace Now in a list of speakers in a press release on Friday, also reportedly lead a chant: "Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies."

"Especially now, in the face of the growing radicalization of the rightist government, in the face of a government that uses a minority as a punching bag, a government that incites against its Arab citizens, marginalizes them and even allows for their killing; especially now, in the face of annexation of initiatives, racist anti-democratic legislation, in the face of the silencing and the populism … we must establish a democratic camp around common basic principles and a clear call to end the occupation, a call for equality, democracy and social justice for all the state's citizens," Odeh said in his speech.

One of the first speakers at the demonstration was Peace Now's Director General Avi Buskila, who addressed the crowds saying, "We, here in this square, are the hope of Israel. It is time for a Palestinian state alongside Israel."

He said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has "forgotten what it's like to be Zionist," adding that "Today, we, the citizens of the democratic state of Israel rise up to protect our home. We hereby declare a battle to ensure our future in a Jewish and democratic state."

Head of Israel's Labor Party and leader of the opposition at the Israeli Knesset Isaac Herzog also spoke at the rally, and referred to US President Donald Trump, saying that "those who thought that the chances for hope would be buried with the election in the US understands today 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 him as saying.

Herzog, who was reportedly booed when he came to the stage, called for the creation of a political bloc representing the Israel's center-left, "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 that "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. On this basis, and in light of government celebrations of the 'unification' and 'liberation' of Jerusalem and President Trump's visit, the organizers expect masses to attend the demonstration."

The statement quoted Avi Buskila as saying, "we will take 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 illustrate 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."

A poll released Friday by Israel's Channel 2 news found that 47 percent of Israelis still support a two-state solution based on 1967 borders, while 39 said were opposed, and 14 percent said they do not know.

However, a poll released in March by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs revealed that a majority of Israelis oppose any Israeli withdrawal from the occupied West Bank, while 79 percent of Israelis believe in the importance of maintaining a unified Jerusalem under Israeli control, in contradiction with longstanding international peace negotiations and international law.

By contrast -- two thirds of Palestinians believe the two-state solution is no longer viable, according to a poll last December by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research.

A growing number of Palestinian activists have criticized the two-state solution as unsustainable and unlikely to bring durable peace, given the existing political context and expanding illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied territory, proposing instead a binational state with equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians.

Others still have warned against focusing the debate on reaching a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and have instead demanded that Palestinians be immediately granted the full set of human rights, including the right to self-determination, independent of arriving at a political settlement based on either a two- or one-state solution.
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