Israelis protest against Benjamin Netanyahu's West Bank annexation plan

The demonstration was organised by left-wing groups and did not appear to be the start of a mass movement

Several thousand Israelis demonstrated on Saturday against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to extend sovereignty over parts of the occupied West Bank.

Wearing face masks and practising social distancing, the demonstrators gathered under the banner “No to annexation, no to occupation. Yes to peace and democracy”. Some waved Palestinian flags.

The protest was organised by left-wing groups and did not appear to be the start of a popular movement. About half of Israelis support annexation, according to a recent opinion poll.

The organisers screened a video address by US senator Bernie Sanders.

“It has never been more important to stand up for justice, and to fight for the future we all deserve,” Mr Sanders said. “It’s up to all of us to stand up to authoritarian leaders and to build a peaceful future for every Palestinian and every Israeli.”

One demonstrator called for more solidarity between Palestinians and Israelis.

“We have done so much damage to each other, the Palestinians and the Jewish” people, Anat Schrieber said.

“We are brothers – we belong here, both of us, we can do so much more together than separately.”

Another rally attendee, identifying herself as Eden, called for “justice to Palestinians and peace to both people, Israelis and Palestinians”.

“In an apartheid reality there cannot be peace for us or them, nor can there be justice,” she said.

An annexation of the territories would violate international law and likely inflame tension in the volatile region.

“I am afraid of the annexation plan,” Eden said. “I think it will lead to riots and even war.” The plan “will not achieve anything... [and] has no connection to peace”.

Palestinians want an independent state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

Mr Netanyahu set July 1 as the date to begin advancing his plan to annex Israel’s settlements in the Jordan Valley in the West Bank, hoping for approval from Washington.

US President Donald Trump has unveiled a peace plan that includes Israel keeping its settlements and the Palestinians establishing a state under stringent conditions.

Palestinians rejected the proposal and Israel’s proposed annexation.

Warning of possible violence and diplomatic repercussions, some European and Arab states, together with the United Nations, have urged Israel not to annex its settlements, regarded by many countries as illegal.

Updated: June 7, 2020 07:17 PM

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