The Jerusalem Post
Flag march approved despite Hamas threats
Route will not go through Damascus Gate • IDF on alert, 2,000 police officers to patrol
The controversial flag march, which usually parades through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, has been given the go-ahead for Tuesday against a background of threats of renewed violence by Hamas over its route.
The event was scheduled, as it is every year, for Jerusalem Day on May 10. But it was canceled due to severe tensions in the capital that resulted in the recent conflict in Gaza after Hamas fired rockets at Jerusalem later that day.
Public Security Minister Omer Barlev on Monday said the police were well prepared for the march against a background of ongoing tensions in east Jerusalem and calls from Hamas for Arab-Israelis and east Jerusalem residents to confront the procession.
The route of the march, during a normal year, starts at Damascus Gate and winds its way through the Muslim Quarter and out to the Western Wall Plaza in the Jewish Quarter.
The approved route for Monday’s march will pass in front of Damascus Gate and then proceed outside the Old City’s
walls to Jaffa Gate, down David Street, which divides the Christian and Armenian Quarters, and down Chain Gate Street, which divides the Muslim and Jewish Quarters, and into the Western Wall Plaza.
Although the route does not go through the Muslim Quarter, David Street and Chain Gate Street do run straight through the so-called Arab market of Palestinian vendors and tradesmen.
Following evening meetings with Police Insp.-Gen. Kobi Shabtai, senior officers in the IDF and the Shin Bet (Israel
Security Agency) and officials from the National Security Council, Barlev said he found “that the police are well prepared, and a great effort was made to protect the delicate fabric of life and public safety.”
Asked about the event in a Labor faction meeting on Monday, Barlev said: “The flag march will take place... Jerusalem is Israel’s eternal capital. In a democracy, you may, and it is important, demonstrate and hold marches, as long as they follow the law and the police decisions.”
There will be at least 2,000 police officers securing the march.
On Monday evening, a Hamas spokesman said the March of Flags could spark a new round of conflict “to protect al-Aqsa and Jerusalem” and called on all Arab-Israelis and east Jerusalem residents to confront those participating in the march, Channel 13 News reported.
The event is being organized by a collection of right-wing and religious organizations, including Im Tirtzu and the Bnei Akiva, Ezra and Ariel religious-Zionist youth movements, as well as several regional councils in Judea and Samaria.
Earlier on Monday, Rabbi Haim Druckman, one of the most senior and influential religious-Zionist rabbis, called for as many people as possible to participate in the march.
“How joyful it is that Jerusalem has returned to our hands,” he said. “The dance of flags expresses our great joy of the return of Jerusalem to the Jewish people... Anyone who can should participate in the event because it expresses our true joy and our control over Jerusalem.”
Barlev’s decision to allow the march was met with some opposition from within the new government. Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) said it should have been canceled.
Yamina MK Nir Orbach welcomed Barlev’s comments, calling the event “part of the religious-Zionist experience” and “a march of joy.”
Regarding the diplomatic implications of the march, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid did not have a position on the matter as of Monday morning, his spokesman said.
A diplomatic source in Egypt, which mediated the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas ending last month’s Operation Guardian of the Walls, said although Hamas had declared a “day of rage” to coincide with the Jerusalem march, they did not expect a serious escalation in violence.
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh termed the march a “provocation” by “extremist Israeli settlers.” It is an “aggression against our people/Jerusalem and its sanctities that must end,” he wrote on Twitter.
The defense establishment is bracing for potential violence in the West Bank as Palestinian groups warn against the march.
The Border Police has reportedly reinforced Jerusalem’s Old City, and the IDF has carried out ongoing situational assessments with other security bodies ahead of the planned march.
According to a security source quoted by Walla, the IDF will reinforce its troops near known areas of friction in the West Bank for fear of potential terrorist attacks and will also increase the level of alert for Iron Dome batteries due to Hamas’s threats to respond to the flag march in Jerusalem.
Ahead of Barlev’s Monday meeting with Shabtai, he said the march would go on as planned.
“In a democracy, it is allowed and important to demonstrate within the confines of the law,” Barlev said. “We will hold a police assessment about the events, and we will operate according to the recommendations of the police.”
Also on Monday, on the sidelines of the traditional picture of the new cabinet at the President’s Residence, Bennett spoke with Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Barlev regarding the march, Walla reported. • partner in the new governing coalition.
In an interview with KAN News, he downplayed Ra’am MK Saeed Alharomi’s abstention on the vote to form the government, which passed 60-59. In return for his support of the new coalition, Alharomi demanded that a clause in the coalition agreement regarding illegal construction in the Negev be canceled.
Abbas said he signed a coalition agreement, and even though there were still details that needed to be worked out, he would honor it for the entire term of the government.
“Alharomi is in the coalition,” Abbas said. “His abstention was known and agreed upon in advance, and we are moving forward. Had there been [a] real danger of the government not being formed, he would have voted in favor of it. That was our deal.” contributed