Israel's Security Cabinet Orders Yet Another Delay for Controversial Jerusalem March

Netanyahu, Gantz agree route would be agreed upon by both police and organizers, amid fears that the Jewish parade through the Old City's Muslim Quarter and Damascus Gate would reignite violence

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A soldier watches Flag March participants in Jerusalem's Old City
A soldier watches Flag March participants in Jerusalem's Old CityCredit: Olivier Fitoussi

Israel's security cabinet decided on Tuesday to postpone a right-wing march through Jerusalem, initially planned for Thursday but canceled after police said they wouldn’t allow it to pass through the Old City’s Muslim Quarter, citing security concerns.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the police commissioner earlier on Tuesday to present several alternative routes for the Flag March, but a statement on behalf of the cabinet said Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz agreed the route will be agreed upon by both police and organizers.

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The new date set for the controversial parade is next Tuesday, two days after a planned confidence vote on Sunday that may see Netanyahu removed from office.

The issue was brought before the security cabinet due to its security and political ramifications. 

The march, in which right-wing Jewish groups parade through the Old City carrying Israeli flags to celebrate the reunification of Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day War, was scheduled for Jerusalem Day last month. It was initially diverted due to security concerns as clashes between police and Palestinians in the city intensified, and dispersed after Hamas fired rockets at Jerusalem from Gaza as tensions peaked. This resulted in an 11-day flare-up between Israel and Gaza.

In the wake of the cabinet's decision, Itamar Ben-Gvir, leader of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, took to Twitter on Tuesday night to rail against the decision and to say that he would arrive to the Old City with Israeli flags on Thursday night, despite it. "The police are not ready to make a commitment to the organizers who will march at the Nablus Gate. On Thursday I will arrive in the Old City of Jerusalem and march with Israeli flags - I will not accept this disgrace."

In his post, Ben Gvir characterized the cabinet's decision as tantamount to "surrendering to Hamas and bowing down to a terrorist organiation. Hamas has ruled that Jews will not march through the Old City on Thursday. The Government of Israel and the Israel Police surrendered."    

On Monday, the organizers of the march said they had decided to cancel the event, that was supposed to take place on Thursday, after police voiced their opposition. 

Sources said that Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai and police Jerusalem District chief, Doron Turgeman, will probably propose that the march does not pass through the city's Muslim Quarter and Damascus Gate – a flashpoint of tension in the lead-up to the most recent escalation.

According to security assessments, allowing the march to pass through the Muslim Quarter and Damascus Gate could lead to clashes on the Temple Mount and even rocket fire from Gaza.  

Police officials are examining the option that the parade passes through Jaffa Gate and ends at the Western Wall.   

Police officials have voiced concerns that they would not have enough manpower to guarantee the safety of participants if the march went ahead through its original route.  This would have forced the police to deploy thousands of police officer across Jerusalem, risking a shortage in case of renewed violence in mixed Jewish-Arab cities.

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