Gantz says he will demand cancellation of right-wing parade in Jerusalem
Defense Minister Benny Gantz said on Saturday he would demand the cancellation of a right-wing nationalist parade in Jerusalem’s Old City if it “requires extraordinary security measures and endangers public order and civilians. diplomatic processes “.
The controversial march is due to take place in the Old City of Jerusalem on June 10, after police called off the annual Jerusalem Day march in the midst of the event on May 10 when Hamas fired a rocket barrage at the city. city.
Gantz released the statement following a meeting with military and police chiefs, the attorney general and other senior security officials. The Minister of Defense said he had stressed to all officials present the need for responsible and sensitive behavior. Public Security Minister Amir Ohana of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, whose office oversees the police, was notably absent from the meeting.
An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Hebrew media on Saturday that police would make the final call on whether the march would take place. “Israel has returned to routine, there are currently no restrictions and Jews are visiting the Temple Mount,” the official said.
Leaders of the left-wing Labor, Meretz and United Arab List parties warned earlier on Saturday of the potential negative consequences of the march and said they believed it could be a deliberate attempt to thwart the march. formation of the so-called “change of government”.
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Police chiefs were due to meet on Sunday to decide whether or not to approve the march. According to Channel 12, the parade was likely to be approved, but possibly with changes to its itinerary, including a refusal to allow participants to pass through the volatile Damascus Gate area which was at the center of the unrest in the capital last month.
Yesh Atid MP Ram Ben-Barak said on Saturday the parade was an attempt to revive the region and thwart plans to swear in a new government.
“We are at the beginning of difficult days in which a lot of pressure and attempts will be made to thwart the change of government, but in the end a new era will begin here. The will to form a government that will unite the division in Israeli society will overcome all attempts to thwart it, ”said Ben-Barak.
After previous unrest in Jerusalem was seized by Hamas to shoot at the city on May 10, sparking 11 days of Israel-Gaza conflict and days of Arab-Jewish violence in Israel, some critics of Netanyahu accused him of ‘have fanned the flames in the capital. to thwart the attempts of his rivals to form a government that would remove him from power. Amid the violence, Ra’am Party leader Mansour Abbas withdrew from coalition talks and Yamina Party leader Naftali Bennett briefly excluded a change bloc government.
However, the two eventually returned to the table and on Wednesday night the bloc announced they had agreed to form a government. The planned coalition, which has a slim 61-59 majority, is expected to be voted on by the Knesset on June 9 or 14.
Labor leader Merav Michaeli, in an interview with Channel 12 on Saturday, also said the rescheduling of the march appeared to be an attempt to rekindle the violence, adding that “all the drama we’ve seen is because of the provocations in Jerusalem has just calmed down, it would be manifestly irresponsible to allow it again.
“If Netanyahu and Smotrich relight Jerusalem next week, there will be no further doubt as to the motive and purpose,” said Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz, referring to the religious Zionist Party leader’s involvement, Bezalel Smotrich, in the planned march.
“We will not allow them to burn the country out of Balfour,” Horowitz added, referring to the official residence of the prime minister.
Arab-Israeli lawmakers Ahmad Tibi of the United Arab List and Issawi Frej of Meretz both sent letters to the police chief, demanding the march be canceled.
“It is a provocation that looks like an attempt to rekindle violence in our region, perhaps in the hope that it will serve certain political interests,” Frej wrote.
Tibi said the planned march poses a “great danger of violence”.
Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak said the planned march “seems a clumsy attempt to rekindle violence at a sensitive time”, adding that it was in the hands of Gantz, Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai and the head of the service. security of the Shin Bet Nadav Argaman to prevent it.
Meanwhile, far-right MP Itamar Ben Gvir said the parade would take place regardless of warnings it could rekindle violence.
“In the face of the anger of the far left government, we will march to Jerusalem,” Ben Gvir said. “Jerusalem is our capital forever and ever, and we will walk happily everywhere. “
Ben Gvir’s decision to “relocate” his office to East Jerusalem during tensions there last month is seen as a central cause of unrest which then spilled over to the Temple Mount, leading Hamas to fire rockets at it. Israel and thus triggering last month’s conflict with Gaza and inter-ethnic violence in Israeli cities.
The eight-party coalition that aims to oust Netanyahu seems increasingly likely to gain the necessary majority support in the Knesset. The assessment among all members of the change bloc, led by Prime Minister designate Bennett and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, is that the coalition will indeed be successfully sworn in, according to Friday TV reports.
The envisaged coalition brings together eight parties from all political backgrounds: the right Yamina, New Hope and Yisrael Beytenu, the centrist Yesh Atid and Blue and White, the Labor left and Meretz, and the conservative Islamic party Ra’am. Bennett is expected to be prime minister until mid-2023, with Lapid to succeed him for the next two years.
But the rescheduled march could rekindle violence in the capital and beyond, and could challenge the fragile alliance that is trying to topple Netanyahu.
The terrorist group Hamas warned on Saturday of the “consequences” if the march passes through the entrance to the Damascus gate in the old city. Muhammad Hamadeh, spokesman for the terror group in Jerusalem, called on Palestinians to come to Al-Aqsa Mosque on Thursday, when the march is supposed to take place, to “protect it from the wickedness of Zionism and their ploys. “.
The Islamic Jihad group, which was also heavily involved in the fighting in Gaza, said a march would be considered “hostile action against the Palestinian people and Palestinian land.” He called on the Palestinians to assemble at Al-Aqsa and face any attempt to enter the compound.
Several Hebrew media reported that the organizers received police permission to hold the event on June 10, with a permit to walk to the Western Wall through the Damascus Gate and through the Muslim Quarter. This route has long been viewed as provocative by Israeli and Palestinian critics, given that local Arab shop owners are forced to close their stores so law enforcement can secure the predominantly Palestinian area for mostly Jewish revelers. nationalists.
But the Israeli police did not immediately confirm the route, and the Ynet news site later reported that the police had not yet signed the final authorization.
“We will once again march through the streets of Jerusalem with our heads held high and Israeli flags raised. We will demand the unification of Jerusalem forever. Come en masse! organizers said in an announcement posted on social media Thursday.
The announcement was co-signed by several right-wing and religious Zionist groups, including the youth movement Bnei Akiva, Im Tirzu and the Ariel and Etzion settlement bloc. It was also signed by the far-right Religious Zionist Party.
The annual march is traditionally held on Jerusalem Day, when Israel commemorates the reunification of the city after the capture of East Jerusalem by Israeli forces, including the Old City and its holy sites, during the Six Day War of 1967.
The Old City of Jerusalem, with the Temple Mount, the site of biblical Jewish temples and now home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock shrine, has always been a major hotspot of the Israeli conflict. Palestinian.
Netanyahu’s government agreed to hijack the Damascus Gate and Muslim Quarter flag march hours before the scheduled start of the May 10 celebration, giving in to pressure from the United States, which feared the initial route of the parade does not overflow the tensions in the city.
The city was already on edge amid widespread protests and clashes ahead of impending expulsions of Palestinians in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem and the crackdown on violent protests at the Temple Mount compound during the month holy muslim of Ramadan.
Hamas used violence in the city as a pretext to launch rockets at Jerusalem, unleashing 11 days of intense fighting that saw more than 4,000 rockets fired at Israel and the IDF carrying out some 1,500 strikes on Gaza. The march was officially suspended when the rockets were fired, but some participants completed it.
Since a ceasefire was declared on May 21, the Egyptian military has led an effort to negotiate a long-term ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, including a prisoner exchange. Hamas has warned that events in Jerusalem could see a resumption of hostilities.