Kahanist Lawmaker Closes Makeshift Office in East Jerusalem at Netanyahu's Behest

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Itamar Ben Gvir (C) at his makeshift office in his East Jerusalem office at Sheikh Jarrah
Itamar Ben Gvir (C) at his makeshift office in his East Jerusalem office at Sheikh JarrahCredit: AHMAD GHARABLI - AFP

Kahanist lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir dismantled his temporary East Jerusalem office Friday morning, saying that it was at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's request, who had agreed in return to maintain a heavy police presence in the Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah until the end of Ramadan next week.

Ben-Gvir said Netanyahu is worried that his presence in the Shimon Hatzaddik neighborhood, near Sheikh Jarrah, would spark clashes between Palestinians and the police.

The far-right lawmaker issued a statement on Friday saying that "after a week of assaults on Jews and the police's incompetence we forced them to provide me with protection. I welcome the agreement [with the prime minister] and I'm extremely happy that police forces will finally protect the residents of the Shimon Hatzaddik neighborhood."  

Clashes between Palestinians and Jews erupted on Thursday after the establishment of Ben-Gvir's makeshift office, which he said was because of failure by police to protect Jewish residents in the flashpoint area. Police said 15 were arrested in the clashes. 

Dozens of Palestinian residents of Sheikh Jarrah have faced potential eviction for years, amid intensified efforts from right-wing settler groups that assert the land was owned by Jews before 1948, when Israel was founded. The threat of eviction has led to frequent protests.

Police are preparing for a tense weekend as tens of thousands of Muslim worshippers are expected on the Temple Mount to mark the final Friday of the holy month of Ramadan and after a night of clashes in East Jerusalem between Israeli security forces and Palestinians. 

A large police presence has been stationed throughout Jerusalem's Old City to secure the Muslim worshipers. Officers have also set up roadblocks to control movement in the area.

On Friday afternoon, left-wing organizations will be protesting Jewish settlement in Sheikh Jarrah. Arab activists are expected to come from northern Israel to rally in support of local Palestinians and to break the Ramadan fast together in the evening. Young Palestinians are being called to join protests in the neighborhood after the nightly prayers, as they have done throughout the week.