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Jerusalem flag march to be held June 15, two days after vote on new coalition

Right-wing nationalist parade will go ahead only if organizers come to an agreement with police; far-right MK Ben Gvir says he’ll march this Thursday anyway

Participants in the Flag March near Jerusalem's Old City on May 10, 2021. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Participants in the Flag March near Jerusalem's Old City on May 10, 2021. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

The high-level security cabinet on Tuesday evening announced the contentious flag march planned in Jerusalem would be permitted to take place in one week, if police approve the route.

The compromise proposal brought forward by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz and approved by ministers confirmed the event can go ahead “within a framework that will be agreed upon by police and organizers,” according to a statement released Tuesday.

The rescheduling from Thursday to Tuesday June 15 places the march two days after the Knesset votes to approve a new government removing Netanyahu from power, allaying concerns by some critics of the prime minister that he was hoping to use the march and the violence it could potentially spark as part of a final bid to prevent the formation of the new coalition.

Organizers of the parade told Kan news they will insist on holding the event with the original route, passing through the Muslim Quarter, a plan which is most likely to be shot down by police.

Far-right Religious Zionism MK Itamar Ben Gvir had vowed to use his parliamentary immunity to march through the Muslim Quarter if police refused to allow the event to move forward. On Tuesday, he doubled down and said he would march on Thursday, despite the security cabinet allowing the event to take place next week.

Police had initially refused to authorize the event, which was set to follow a path through the Old City’s Damascus Gate entrance and Muslim Quarter, concerned of the potential for the parade to inflame tensions in the city and spark a fresh wave of unrest there, and potentially in other locations.

The Hamas terror group had warned of “consequences” if the march passed through Damascus Gate.

The original flag march on May 10 was stopped short by rocket fire from Hamas at Jerusalem, which sparked an 11-day bout of intense fighting.

A joint body representing various terror groups based in the Gaza Strip, including Hamas, said Monday that “if Israel decides to restore the previous situation, we call for burning the ground under the enemy’s feet,” referring to the May 10 parade and subsequent clashes.

A police source was quoted Monday by Channel 12 as saying that “no route that passes through Damascus Gate and the Muslim Quarter can be approved. The police won’t be able to muster sufficient forces to secure such a route, in addition to many more forces that would have to be prepared in other areas where clashes would be expected.”

Israeli police officers seen during clashes with Palestinian protesters at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City, May 18, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Nationalist politicians and parade organizers have charged police will be giving in to terror if the parade is canceled.

Ben Gvir on Tuesday argued that even a mere delay showed weakness.

“The postponement of the march is to surrender to Hamas and fold to a terrorist organization. Hamas has ruled that Jews will not march through the Old City on Thursday. The Israeli government and the Israel Police surrendered,” he tweeted. “I will not accept this disgrace.”

Religious Zionism MK Itamar Ben Gvir is blocked by Israel Police as he tries to go up to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City, June 8, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/FLASH90)

With the original June 10 date, some members of the so-called “change government” set to unseat Netanyahu charged that the march was deliberately planned to stir unrest and potentially derail the incoming government before it could be voted into office.

“The igniting of Jerusalem is on this government, the extinguishing will be under the responsibility of the next government,” Yesh Atid MK Orna Barbivai tweeted on Tuesday after the new compromise was announced.

The May 10 march, which came amid heightened tensions over planned evictions of Palestinians in an East Jerusalem neighborhood and a police clampdown of rioting on the Temple Mount, had also been rerouted to avoid the Damascus Gate and the Muslim Quarter, following pressure from the US, which expressed concern that the parade could cause tensions to boil over.

The annual Jerusalem Day event sees thousands of nationalist Jews march through Muslim-majority parts of Jerusalem toward the Western Wall, in a show of sovereignty to mark the Hebrew anniversary of the city’s east side being captured by Israel during the Six Day War of 1967. The route has long been deemed provocative by Israeli and Palestinian critics, since local Arab proprietors are forced to shutter their stores so law enforcement can secure the Palestinian-majority area for the mainly nationalist Jewish revelers.

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