On Saturday 27 May, between 15,000 and 20,000 Israelis demonstrated in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square to mark the anniversary of the Six Day war the subsequent Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. The demonstration called for an end to the occupation and for “two states for two people”. In proportion to population, the turnout was equivalent to 140,000 in Britain.
Opposition leader and Labour Party head Isaac Herzog was booed as he came on stage. He, claimed Trump was “determined to bring peace between us and the Palestinians…who understands what his predecessors understood.” That assessment is a rather poor one.
When Trump went to Israel he talked about peace a lot but his notion of peace was, as veteran socialist Uri Avnery put it, based on the idea that everyone in the Middle East will do his, (Trump’s) bidding: “Trump came to Israel with the impression that the Saudi princes had just offered him a deal — Israel will free Palestine, Sunni Arabs and Israelis will become one happy family, they will fight together against bad old Shiite Iran. Wonderful. Only [Israeli Prime Minister] Netanyahu does not dream of freeing Palestine. He does not really give a damn about far-away Iran. He wants to hold on to East Jerusalem, to the West Bank and, indirectly, to the Gaza Strip.”
Herzog’s assessment of Trump may reflect his own political ambition to govern Israel. He used his speech to call for a new opposition alliance with the Zionist Union and others against Netanyahu. Fortunately other speakers at the rally were much clearer in their opposition to occupation and call for two states.
Organisers of the rally also read a letter from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in which he pledged peace on the basis of the two-state solution. The rally is a hopeful sign. As indeed is a recent poll (by Israel’s Channel 2 TV station) which found that 47 per cent of Israelis still support a two-state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians based on 1967 borders. The same poll showed 39 per cent being opposed, and 14 per cent saying they did not know.