A day after facing massive protests, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated on June 7, Sunday, that his government would go ahead with its decision to formally annex large parts of the occupied West Bank on July 1. The announcement was made after his meeting with the leaders of Jewish settlements.
Several observers, however, noted that Netanyahu’s statements on Sunday were a step down from his earlier proposals regarding the annexation pan. According to his previous statements, his government was planning to annex all the settlements and the entire Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank. On Sunday, however, he refrained from mentioning the Jordan Valley.
Israel has around 450,000 of its citizens living illegally inside the Palestinian territories in more than 130 illegal settlements.
On Saturday, despite the coronavirus threat, thousands of Israelis came out to Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square to protest Netanyahu’s plan to annex the occupied territories. The protesters held banners saying “No to annexation, no to occupation, yes to peace and democracy”. Some of the protesters also held banners saying “Palestinian lives matter”, inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement going on in the US against police brutality and racism.
The protests in Israel were organized by the left-wing Meretz party and the communist faction of the Arab Joint List, among others. The protesters maintained social distancing norms and practiced protective measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Member of the Israeli parliament from the Meretz list, Nitzan Horowitz, called the proposed move a “war crime” and “apartheid”, which also goes against the two-state solution for Palestine. Members of the Arab Joint List also addressed the protesters on Saturday. Mereve Michaelie, an MP from the Labour Party which is also a part of the Netanyahu-led coalition government, defied her party line and came out in support of the protesters.
US Senator Bernie Sanders also sent a video message saying, “the plans to annex any parts of the West Bank must be stopped. The occupation must be ended and we must work together for a future of equality and dignity for all people in Israel and Palestine,” Times of Israel reported.
The new coalition government in Israel between Netanyahu’s Likud-led ultra right-wing alliance and Benny Gantz’s Blue and White, which came to power last month, has made the annexation of the occupied territories its primary agenda. The annexation plan corresponds to the plan proposed by US president Donald Trump in January, as per which 30% of the Palestinian territories will be given to Israel in exchange of an independent Palestinian State. Palestinians have rejected the plan, calling it unilateral and biased.