Thousands Call for Peace Talks at Tel Aviv Rally

Demonstrators call on the government to stop 'managing the conflict' and engage in dialogue; Meretz leader Galon: Netanyahu has failed to present any kind of vision to end violence.

Moti Milrod

Some 3,000 people demonstrated in Tel Aviv on Saturday against the Israeli government's policies, calling for a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The protesters marched from Rabin Square to Hakirya defense compound, chanting slogans like "Two capitals in Jerusalem" and "No closure or checkpoints – only peace is a solution." They carried signs reading "Intifada government, go home" and "Managing the conflict is killing us."

Moti Milrod

MKs from the left-wing Meretz party marched at head of the rally, accompanied by security guards. Party leader Zehava Galon addressed the crowd. "Bibi, you've failed. You've failed in providing personal security for the citizens of Israel, you've failed in proposing any kind of vision for changing the reality," he said. "The only thing the Netanyahu government has to offer is for us to arm ourselves, pop anyone who looks like a terrorist in the head. This government is calling for a boycott on Israel's Arab citizens, is allowing people to kill and agitating against members of the Left," she said. "I'm telling you Bibi – when blood is spilled here in the name of the Holocaust, the finger won't be pointed at the Mufti, it will be pointed at you," she added.

"They're leading us toward the binational state, toward the destruction of the Zionist vision in giant leaps," Zionist Union MK Stav Shafir said. "On whose watch is Jerusalem going up in flames? On whose watch are people afraid to go out of their homes? On whose watch are innocent people getting lynched? On Netanyahu's watch, on the watch of those who erroneously call themselves patriots, lovers of Israel." 

Peace Now chairman Yariv Oppenheimer accused the government of "taking a whole country hostage of an unnecessary religious war, and we're all paying the price." The government, he said, has turned the country into a "violent, racist and hopeless" place.

Joint Arab List lawmakers who asked to address the rally were turned away. According to sources in the party, Oppenheimer rejected MK Aida Touma-Suliman's offer to participate in the demonstration.

Oppenheimer told Haaretz there was no decision to boycott the Arab MKs. "When they asked the list of speakers was already closed. We decided to hold a limited event with only four speakers," he said. The speakers were MKs Galon and Shafir, Rahat deputy mayor Naif Abu Abed, and bereaved father Roni Hirschenson.