Bernie Sanders addresses anti-annexation protest in Tel Aviv via video

In Tel Aviv, left-wing parties protested Israel’s plan to annex Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, with American politician Bernie Sanders addressing the crowd via a video message.

By Ebin Sandler, World Israel News Staff

The left-wing Meretz party and the communist faction within the Arab Joint List staged a protest on Saturday evening in Tel Aviv to register opposition to the Israeli government’s plan to annex Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.

Former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders addressed the rally in a video message from the U.S., referring to Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria as an “occupation” and labeling Israel’s plans to extend sovereignty over these communities as “illegal annexation.”

The self-avowed socialist added, “The plans to annex any parts of [Judea and Samaria] must be stopped.”

Sanders’ address was posted to YouTube by Ayman Odeh, the leader of the Hadash party and head of the Joint Arab List. Sanders referred to Odeh as his “friend” at the outset of his address.

Estimates of the number attendees ranged from 2,000, the number at which police sought to cap the event, to 6,000, a figure published by the Haaretz newspaper.

At the demonstration, Meretz head Nitzan Horowitz told the protesters annexation represents a “war crime.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu set July 1 as the government’s deadline to advance annexation plans, which would see Israel extend sovereignty over Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria,

The total area Israel plans to annex covers about one-third of Judea and Samaria, with the Palestinians continuing to control the vast majority of the territory.

In theory, Israel’s annexation plans conform with Trump Mideast peace plan, which also potentially offers the Palestinians an independent state and around $50 billion in economic incentives.

The Palestinians vehemently oppose Israeli sovereignty over Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria and have garnered the support of traditional allies in the United Nations and the European Union, who have threatened Israel with punitive measures if annexation moves forward.

Palestinian officials have openly threatened violence in recent weeks, with Mahmoud al-Habbash, a top adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, claiming, “Every home, every young person… can turn into a powder keg if Israel carries out the annexation. When a person loses hope for peace and justice he can turn into a bomb.”

Palestinian leadership has encouraged suicide bombings in the past, with one particularly deadly attack in 2001 claiming the lives of 15 civilians, including 7 children and a pregnant woman.

During that attack, a suicide bomber detonated an explosive device at a crowded pizzeria in Jerusalem.

Senior Fatah member Jibril Rajoub echoed Habbash’s sentiments, telling Israel’s Kan Radio, “If there is annexation, we are going to a confrontation on the ground.”

Meanwhile, a Hamas official named Maher Salah told one of the terror group’s official websites that Israeli annexation “will open new doors of conflict and will increase the fire…we will protect [the Palestinian national project] with our blood.”