Controversial Jerusalem flag march postponed pending new government sworn in

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The controversial flag march in Jerusalem, originally scheduled for May 10, was carried over until June 15, two days after the swearing-in of the new government in the Knesset. The security cabinet announced on June 8 that the parade would be allowed in a week if police approve the route.

The annual march has been held for several years in honor of Jerusalem Day, when the city was unified in the 1967 Six Day War. Organized by right-wing groups, the parade usually takes place near the Damascus Gate and through the Old City. He has repeatedly become a source of conflicts with the Arab residents of Jerusalem, who consider the march a provocation.

Originally scheduled for May 10 this year, the march was cancelled shortly after it started, when Hamas missiles were aimed at Jerusalem. This marked the beginning of an 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas and unrest in mixed Jewish-Arab cities across Israel. After a ceasefire agreement with Hamas, organizers postponed the parade until June 10.

Nonetheless, Defense Secretary Benny Gantz has, in principle, opposed the parade over the past few days, or at least the provocative route through the Old Town. On June 5, Gantz said he would demand the cancellation of the parade if he “demands emergency security measures and endangers public order and diplomatic processes. ” Senior Police Officers sided with Gantz. They said thousands of police officers would be required to ensure that the march proceeds peacefully, without friction between far-right activists and Muslim residents. The officers said that the police simply do not have such officers at the moment.

High-ranking politicians in the Labor Party and Meretz parties, which are part of the new coalition, warned of the possible negative consequences of the June 10 march. They said it was a deliberate attempt to prevent the formation of a so-called “change government”, suggesting that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Public Security Amir Ohana would like to provoke Palestinians into an aggressive response. Such a violent conflict, in turn, could have led to divisions between right-wing and left-wing coalition members shortly before the new government was sworn in.

After consulting with security authorities, the police decided to allow the parade only if its route was changed to avoid passing through Damascus Gate and the Muslim Quarter in the Old City. Then the organizers of the march decided to cancel the event. Leader of the Bezalel Religious Zionist Party Smotrich tweeted, “Islamic Jihad and Hamas are trying to dictate to the State of Israel how to behave in its own capital. Any attempt to prevent the march of the flag from surrendering to the terrorist threat will be an indescribable shame that will show who really won the last round. [in Gaza]… ” The organizers insisted on the approval of the original march.

While Netanyahu and Ohana sided with the organizers, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit ruled that the final decision should be made by the Security Cabinet. It was convened for special discussioncompromising. As mentioned above, the event can be held “within the framework agreed by the police and the organizers”. It is not yet clear which route will be approved.

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