Some 15,000 people rallied in Tel Aviv on Saturday in support of the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
A message from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was read during the demonstration at Rabin Square.
"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 message said.
"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. 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."
Opposition leader and Labor Party head Isaac Herzog, who was booed as he came on stage at the rally, 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 also addressed the recent visit of U.S. President Donald Trump to Israel and said, "Those who thought that the chances for hope would be buried with the election in the U.S. understand 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."
Herzog called for the creation of a political bloc representing Israel's center-left that would replace the current government. "We must put aside ego and connect, all of us, to one large political bloc – a large political bloc that doesn't want a bi-national state; a large political bloc that doesn't want half of a 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. This bloc needs to include many good people, from Tzipi Livni, my partner in the Zionist Union, to Moshe Kahlon, Yair Lapid and other people."
Meretz party chair Zehava Galon also criticized Netanyahu and said, "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."
Lawmaker Ayman Odeh, the head of the Joint List party, said in his speech that "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."
Artists including Balkan Beat Box and singer Achinoam Nini performed at the event.
The "Two States – One Hope" demonstration is dubbed by organizers as "a mass demonstration against 50 years of occupation." It is organized by Peace Now in partnership with the Labor and Meretz parties, as well as the Geneva Initiative and the New Israel Fund.
The head of Peace Now, Avi Buskila, addressed the rally and said Netanyahu has "forgotten what it's like to be Zionist."
"Fifty years ago we turned from a democratic state for the Jewish people into a violent state that forcefully rules another people," he said. "… Today we put an end to it. Today the party's over. 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."
A poll released by Channel 2 News on Friday found that 47 percent of Israelis still support a two-state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians based on 1967 borders, while 39 percent said they were opposed, and 14 percent said they do not know.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now