Mansour Abbas, the leader of the Ra’am party which provided the key support to establish a new government in Israel earlier this week, said Tuesday that the contentious flag march in Jerusalem should not have been allowed to go ahead.
“The flag march in Jerusalem today is an unbridled provocation, which is based on shouts of hatred and incitement to violence, and an attempt to set the area on fire for political reasons,” said Abbas in a statement. “The public security minister and the police should have canceled it.”
New Public Security Minister Omer Barlev said on Monday that following his meetings with police, the march would go ahead as scheduled. The nationalist parade, rescheduled after the original event on Jerusalem Day, May 10, was stopped short by Hamas rocket fire at Jerusalem. It is expected to be the first major test faced by Israel’s new government, which was sworn in on Sunday.
Since the fighting ended in a ceasefire last month, Hamas has repeatedly warned that it could reopen hostilities over developments in Jerusalem, and has responded with increased belligerence to plans for the march, an annual event — held to mark Israel’s 1967 capture of East Jerusalem — during which thousands of nationalist youths parade through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City toward the Western Wall.
Abbas said Tuesday afternoon that he was calling “on all sides not to be dragged into an escalation and to maintain maximum restraint.”
The head of the Islamist Ra’am party, which broke boundaries in joining the new government led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, said it was clear the marchers’ goal is to challenge the nascent coalition.
“There is no doubt that the purpose of the march’s initiators is to challenge the new government and exhaust it with a series of explosive events in the coming period and to drag us back into an unnecessary escalation that will endanger lives just as we experienced last month,” Abbas said.
Abbas noted that Ra’am’s vision is one of “attaining peace, mutual security, cooperation and coexistence between two peoples. This is the only vision that can put an end to this bloody conflict.”
The IDF has braced for a resurgence in Gaza fighting and a flare-up of clashes across the West Bank due to the contentious march.
Fire services said Tuesday that at least 10 fires were sparked in the Gaza border area by airborne incendiary devices launched from the Strip by terror groups.
The IDF deployed Iron Dome missile interceptor batteries across the country and sent reinforcements to the West Bank. The Israel Police was also on high alert, deploying more than 2,000 officers across Jerusalem for the event.
Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.