Far-right Israeli Lawmakers Visit Jerusalem Flash Points Ahead of Contentious Jewish Flag Parade

Bezalel Smotrich announces he will visit East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, while Kahanist Itamar Ben-Gvir appears at Temple Mount amid clashes between Israel Police and Palestinian woshippers

Hagar Shezaf
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Far-right Israeli lawmakers Orit Strock, Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir at Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, today
Far-right Israeli lawmakers Orit Strock, Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir at Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, todayCredit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Hagar Shezaf

As tensions in Jerusalem continued to rise, Israeli far-right lawmakers made visits on Monday to several flash points in the Old City and East Jerusalem.

Also on Monday, the Israel Police said it will permit the Flag March, in which religious Zionist youth march through East Jerusalem with Israeli flags to mark the city's 1967 reunification, and to pass through the Damascus Gate and the Muslim Quarter on the way to Western Wall. 

The decision was made despite security officials warning Israel's political leaders that holding the march as is could risk worsening hostilities in the city.

Bezalel Smotrich, chairman of the Religious Zionism party, along with the leader of the Kahanist Otzma Yehudit party, Itamar Ben-Gvir, visited the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, which has stood at the center of recent Arab-Jewish tensions, on Monday afternoon.

He called on New Hope and Yamina lawmakers to end coalition negotiations with United Arab List chairman Mansour Abbas.

"Whoever lends legitimacy to a supporter of terror to be a part of an Israeli government shouldn't be surprised when the terrorists revolt against the State of Israel," Smotrich said.

Appealing to New Hope chairman Gideon Sa'ar and Naftali Bennett, chairmen of New Hope and Yamina respectively, Smotrich appealed to them not to "throw your right-wing ideology away by joining the ranks of those who are inciting violence against Jews. We have to construct a strong, right-wing Jewish Zionist government that will reform the justice system, where we can bring together the whole country without security threats from both right and left. Put them [Arab lawmakers and the left] outside the border and reinforce that Jews will manage the Jewish state."

After speaking, Smotrich and his companions attempted to enter the neighborhood, but were blocked by local activists. They then entered a home where a Jewish family lives. A group of Palestinians is gathered outside, chanting: "Settlers, leave."

Earlier, Smotrich also called on police to shoot Palestinians who throw stones on Monday as clashes between Muslim worshippers and Jews continued in Jerusalem, in the latest round of the ongoing violence which has convulsed the country in recent weeks.

Smotrich took to Twitter to call on police to use lethal force on Monday morning after Palestinians threw stones at an Israeli driver near Lion's Gate in East Jerusalem, causing him to lose control of the car and ram into one of the people who attacked him.

The driver was then attacked by several bystanders, before an Israeli police officer intervened. The officer fired several rounds into the air and called on the attackers to back away. The driver was lightly injured; no Palestinians sustained injuries.  

“Maybe if you understood that the stones are not thrown by themselves but that there are terrorists who throw them, and these terrorists have a center of mass into which live fire can be directed, maybe then fewer stones will be thrown,” Smotrich wrote, in a tweet addressed to the Israel Police.

“But the truth is that the blame is not on the Israeli police but on a political echelon that has been castrating the defense and police system in the fight against the Arab enemy for years,” he asserted, lashing out at a national leadership ”that surrenders to prosecutors.”

“The defense establishment can eradicate terrorism and cut off the head of the Arab enemy – in Gaza, Judea and Samaria, Jerusalem, Jaffa and Ramla,” Smotrich continued, calling out Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by name.

Smotrich also was one of several right-wing politicians who blasted the government for blocking Jews from ascending to the Temple Mount on Monday, where Palestinians and police have been clashing for days, leading to hundreds of injuries and dozens of arrests. 

Ben-Gvir, who was present outside the Mughrabi Bridge leading to the Temple Mount, also condemned the government’s decision to close access to the contested holy site.

Accusing the government of “caving” on the issue of Jerusalem, Ben-Gvir stated that he would not vote in favor of any measures supported by Likud in the Knesset this week, stating that the government’s response to the recent violence is “costing us blood.”

Last Thursday, Ben-Gvir set up a temporary office in Sheikh Jarrah, setting off a fresh round of clashes there. He left the next day, claiming that he had done so after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had agreed in return to maintain a heavy police presence in the Palestinian neighborhood until the end of Ramadan this week.

Neither Smotrich nor a spokesperson responded to multiple requests for comment from Haaretz.

Nir Hasson contributed to this report.

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