Thousands gather in Tel Aviv to protest Jordan Valley annexation

"Don't be fooled: Annexation is an economic catastrophe for both sides. It will ruin everything we've worked to build together."

Thousands gathered in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square to protest the scheduled annexation of 30% of Judea and Samaria.  (photo credit: ALMOG LINDER)
Thousands gathered in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square to protest the scheduled annexation of 30% of Judea and Samaria.
(photo credit: ALMOG LINDER)
About 2,500 people gathered in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square on Tuesday evening to protest the planned annexation of 30% of Judea and Samaria, which the Israeli government said will take place in July.
Red and green Xs marked the ground to help the protesters maintain social distancing as police scanned the crowd for unmasked individuals, issuing verbal warnings and an occasional fine in an attempt to curb Israel's recent rise in coronavirus cases.
Yair (Yaya) Fink, chairman of the moderate Darkenu movement which organized the event, said that "whether we want it or not, the Palestinians are there, and we are here – and any one-sided annexation would demolish that."
"Fink said to those seeking to paint the protest in an anti-Israel light, that "if you have such a hard time seeing Palestinian flags, why do you want to turn us into a multi-ethnic country with a Palestinian majority? If we go ahead with a one-sided annexation, our country will either cease to be Jewish, cease to be democratic, or both at once."
"Annexation is anti-Zionist, anti-Jewish, anti-democratic and anti-security. That is not my Judaism, that is not my Zionism – and we at Darkenu will do everything we possibly can to prevent this, and keep Israel Jewish and Democratic at the same time," he said. 
Celebrities, activists, entrepreneurs and security experts spoke at the protest.
Actor Lior Ashkenazi, who regularly plays Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz on the long-running satire Eretz Nehederet hosted the event, introducing the first speaker of the evening, former head of the IDF's Military Intelligence Directorate and the current head of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) Amos Yadlin.
Yadlin explained the security-related risks of annexation, saying that Israel is "on a path to a one-state solution, for two nationalities [Jewish and Arab]. Our goal is a country that is Jewish, Democratic, safe, legitimate and ethical."
"The only map we've seen so far which predicts what annexation will look like is a conceptual map which was a part of the Trump plan," he said.
"Trump's plan is a plan for a two-state solution, meant as a starting point for negotiations, not as a plan for a one sided annexation."
Some in the crowd began booing as Yadlin began praising the plan's potential security benefits for Israel, before moving back to cheering as he explained that the current map is problematic and does not lead to a two-state solution, and that a one-sided annexation would render such a plan strategically useless.
"I can assure you, unilaterally annexing 30% of Judea and Samaria will not bring any strategic advantages – but it will bring with it grave security risks, international pressures and failures of legitimacy and morals," he said.
"Annexation will hurt the peace agreement and the security cooperation with Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, while drawing vital military force away from the northern front with Iran and Hezbollah," Yadlin said. 
No country in the world other than Trump's America supports this version of a deal. [What will happen] if, in five months, the Democrats win the election, and we lose their support of this move?" He asked the crowd. 
Legendary musicians Miki Gavrielov and Dana Berger performed. Gavrielov played his new song, “Kav HaOni BaMea 21” (The Poverty Line in the 21st Century) and Berger played her new song “Walla, Yofi” (Well, Fine), both songs teeming with pessimism and sadness at the state of the country.
REEM YOUNIS, entrepreneur and winner of the presidential badge of industrialism, and the only speaker of the night from the Arab sector, said that annexation contains within itself a "hell: one that would affect each and every one of us for generations to come."
Younis spoke of the rising unemployment in Israel since the coronavirus pandemic began spreading across the country, and its impact on Israel's Arabic citizens. "Half of Nazareth is unemployed. Add to that some internal financial insecurity, poverty, violence, social unrest and geopolitical uncertainty, and lo and behold, we get hell.
"The last decade has proven that Jews and Arabs can live here together, despite our political differences," she said. "We've seen it in our hospitals, together responding to the coronavirus pandemic. In the rising number of Arab women in the workplace. We've seen it in our universities, in our tech startups in the Arab sector.
"Don't be fooled, annexation is an economic catastrophe for both sides. It will ruin everything we've worked to build together," she concluded.
Loud boos were heard around the square when Fink mentioned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's recent request for special prime ministerial tax benefits in the middle of record unemployment and an economic crisis.
The boos intensified and morphed into chants of "Busha!" (shame) after Fink mentioned Likud MK Miki Zohar's defense of the tax benefits, saying that this was an attempt to "economically cripple" the prime minister.
Toward the end of his speech, Fink asked if there were any Blue and White voters in the crowd. He asked those voters to write down Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz's number, urging protesters to message the alternate prime minister personally, saying that they voted for him, and that they oppose annexation.