National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir will reportedly oversee security for the Jerusalem Pride Parade this week, despite event organizers appealing to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to keep him away from proceedings.
Ben Gvir, who is responsible for the police force as national security minister, has rejected the organizers’ appeals and will fully participate in preparing for and monitoring the march, according to reports on both Channels 12 and 13 Sunday evening.
The far-right lawmaker — who was once at the forefront of the extremist protests against the parade — has reportedly said he will hold situational assessments ahead of Monday’s march and be present at the police’s command center at the event.
“Even though I’m not enthusiastic about the existence of the parade, I don’t want one hair on the head of the marchers to be hurt, and I will do everything to get comprehensive security,” Ben Gvir told associates, according to the TV networks.
The heads of the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance, which runs the annual parade, said they were concerned that the far-right lawmaker may “improperly” interfere in the march, citing his participation in counter rallies in past years, according to their letter to the premier.
“The minister was part of the [homophobic] ‘Beast Parades,’ petitioned the courts several times to cancel the parade, decisively spoke out against it, and represented the family member of the murderer Yishai Schlissel,” their letter to Netanyahu read.
Schlissel, an ultra-Orthodox extremist, murdered teenage marcher Shira Banki at the parade in 2015. Ben Gvir represented his brother, Michael, after the latter was arrested on suspicion of planning to also carry out an attack in 2016.
“He is not a suitable person to oversee the parade and certainly does not inspire the confidence and trust of the marchers,” the organizers wrote. They pleaded to the prime minister to prevent Ben Gvir from visiting the police command center during the parade and personally overseeing the event.
The far-right minister made appearances at the police’s Tel Aviv command center at the height of anti-judicial overhaul protests earlier in the year. Critics alleged that his presence led to harsher policing tactics against anti-government activists.
Up until 2019, Ben Gvir attended counterprotests led by religious extremists against the Jerusalem Pride Parade.
“We have found ourselves in a Kafkaesque situation where the person responsible for the security of the pride parade is the one who for years tried to cancel it, and incited against it as well as [against] the gay community,” said Jonathan Valfer, head of the Open House, in a statement.
“In the past six months, we’ve seen improper involvement by the national security minister in operational decisions of the police, and damage to police as an independent state body that is committed to serving all Israeli citizens,” he said.
Unlike its festive Tel Aviv counterpart, the Jerusalem Pride Parade is subject to heavy security and restrictions, in particular following Banki’s killing, due to animosity toward marchers by many of the city’s residents.
Schlissel carried out the 2015 stabbing attack just a few weeks after he was released from prison, where he had served 10 years for stabbing and injuring marchers at the 2005 parade. He is currently serving a term of life in prison.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid said on Monday that he will attend the parade this Thursday.
“It’s the most important one there has ever been because this year the parade is to protect the rights that we thought that we have and that no one could take,” Lapid said. “This government is plotting to take them and it’s part of the judicial overhaul and we will be there to say it won’t happen.”
The Pride event is slated to begin at 3 p.m., and the march will set out at 5 p.m., and many central roads in Jerusalem will be closed to both vehicular and foot traffic, police said.
Authorities will provide space for a protest against the march in accordance with the law. Police vowed to prevent any kind of violence, public disturbances or infringements against the parade.