Anyone who was educated in a Zionist youth movement like myself, or who grew up in the Israeli educational system, remembers the famous recording of the UN General Assembly vote back on November 29th, 1947, the acceptance of UNGA Resolution 181, the Partition Plan.   And we all remember the roll-call – the United States – Yes, the Soviet Union – Yes…

Although I was too young to remember the live broadcast, my parents were listening, and celebrated with all of their friends.

And soon afterwards, at what had been the home of the late legendary Tel Aviv Mayor Dizengoff, which had been contributed to the city, David Ben-Gurion, soon to be Israel’s first prime minister, read out the Israeli Declaration of Independence.

Now that building is a museum called Independence Hall, towards the end of Rothschild Boulevard.   In the summer of 2011 it was the site of over 1,000 tents of the Israeli social protest movement.

And on Thursday night, November 29, 2012, a moving solidarity demonstration was, organized on the boulevard outside the museum by the Israeli peace movement in support of the Palestinian application to the UN General Assembly for non-member state status.

Dancing in the streets

There was a sense of excitement in the air, with large green signs saying “Israel – Yes!” and Israeli and Palestinian flags waving in the air.

“I wasn’t born when people danced here back in 1948” said Dr. Alon Liel, former Director General of the Israeli Foreign Ministry and Ambassador to South Africa and Turkey, “but today both Israelis and Palestinians have an opportunity to dance”, as a significant step towards an end of the occupation and the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel is being taken in New York.

“Abbas is your partner”

Liel then called Dr. Sufian Abu Zaida to the stage, to stand together with him.  Abu Zaida, who served as Palestinian Authority Minister for Prisoner and Civil Affairs, later addressed the audience in the very fluent Hebrew that he learned during 14 years in Israeli prisons.  “President Mahmoud Abbas is your partner for the creation of a two state solution,” he declared.

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Dr. Sufian Abu Zayda and Dr. Alon Liel in Tel Aviv.

The solidarity rally was initiated by Dr. Nava Sonnenschein, who lives in the joint Jewish-Arab village of Neve Shalom/Wahat el-Salam.  She said that during a recent visit to Ramallah, she was told by Palestinian friends about the plans for large Palestinian rallies in support of the application to the UN, and was asked “what about Tel Aviv?”   That was the spark that led to the initiative, which was organized at Beit Ha’am, the center of the Israeli protest movement on Rothschild Blvd.

Also speaking at the rally, that was ably moderated by Knesset candidate lawyer Yifat Solel, were Prof. Galia Golan, former Meretz MK Mosi Raz, Hadash Knesset candidate Dr. Nabila Espaniol and Dr. Ron Pundak, Chair of the Israeli Peace NGO Forum network and one of the architects of the Oslo Accords.  Since there can be no such rally without music, Mira Awad sang and spoke about her joint identity as a Palestinian-Israeli citizen, and former air force pilot/singer Yonatan Shapiro sang a soft love song about his home town of Ramat Hasharon, perhaps hinting towards days of peace.

A day of celebration for both peoples

Given the honor of being the last speaker was veteran journalist and peace activist Uri Avnery, who at 89 rivals his contemporary President Shimon Peres’ ability to remain active.. “I was not able to dance here in 48” Avnery said, “because I was fighting in the War of Independence.”  One of the first people to advocate a two state solution back in the 50s, and together with General Mati Peled and former Finance Ministry Director General Ya’acov Arnon, one of the first to meet with the Palestinian leaders, Avnery considered this a day of celebration for all who believe in the need for a resolution of the conflict for the sake of both peoples.  He dedicated his words to the late Yassir Arafat, and the late Yitzhak Rabin, the two men who signed the Declaration of Principles in 1993 of mutual recognition between the Government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Avnery added that the passing of the General Assembly resolution means the end of any illusions about a one-state solution, and ensured that the two-state solution was the only option on the table.

Uri Avnery: “Today history is being made for both Palestinians and Israelis”

Also at the demonstration was veteran Latif Dori, probably not a familiar face to most of the younger people there, who was one of the organizers of the first meeting in Romania between Israelis and PLO leaders in 1986 after the Knesset passed an anti-democratic law preventing Israelis from having a dialogue with PLO members.

“A Jewish and an Arab state”

PLO Chairman and Palestinian Authority President Abbas had no choice but to move forward with the Palestinian application to the UN.   The Israeli government led by the trio of Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defense Minister Barak and Foreign Minister Lieberman has not demonstrated any serious readiness to enter negotiations, while continuing to build settlements and preferring to engage with Hamas, whether militarily or indirect talks, despite Netanyahu’s lip-service declaration in support of a two-state solution at Bar-Ilan University in 2009.   The fact that the application was made on the symbolically historic day of November 29th, and that it refers back to UNGA Resolution 181, the Partition Plan, which called for the establishment of “a Jewish and an Arab state” in Mandatory Palestine, means that Abbas has met Netanyahu’s insistence that Israel be recognized as a “Jewish state”.  The Palestinian application for recognition as a “non-member state” based on the 1967 borders, in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, means that the Palestinians and all of the members of the Arab world and the international community who voted in favor, for the first time have recognized the State of Israel’s borders on the 1967 lines.

The ball is in the Israeli court

As all the speakers at the rally in Tel Aviv said, another step has been taken to lay the foundation to advance towards the realization of a two state solution.

Now the ball is Netanyahu’s court, or whoever the Israeli prime minister will be after the January 22nd elections.