After a Day of Clashes, Far-right Lawmaker Returns to Makeshift Office in Sheikh Jarrah

Itamar Ben-Gvir returns to his office in East Jerusalem, after his arrival sparked clashes ■ Officials are concerned that the clashes might lead to a wider escalation in the West Bank and Gaza

Far-right lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir in his makeshift office in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah on Monday.
Far-right lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir in his makeshift office in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah on Monday.Credit: Emil Salman

After a day of clashes in Sheikh Jarrah, Far-right lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir returned on Monday to his makeshift office in the East Jerusalem neighborhood.

Ben-Gvir announced Saturday of his intent to reopen a makeshift office due to a fire that broke out in a Jewish home in Sheikh Jarrah days ago. He said in his statement that the fire was part of a string of attacks against the family. Ben-Gvir's arrival prompted protests by Palestinian residents and violent clashes between hundreds of young Palestinians and Jews there.

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"Until security is returned to [the tomb of] Shimon Hatzaddik, my office will continue to operate here," Ben-Gvir said on Monday, referring to the grave of the Jewish high priest from ancient times, which is located in the flashpoint neighborhood.

Officials are concerned that the Sheikh Jarrah clashes might lead to a wider escalation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett held a meeting to assess the situation on Monday with Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev, Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai, and representatives of the Shin Bet security service.

Ahead of a flight to Bahrain, Bennett condemned "the arson of Jewish homes in Israel's capital," but added that "we do not need provocateurs to come and inflame the area solely for political goals.

Far-right Otzmah Yehudit MK Itamar Ben-Gvir in Sheikh Jarrah, on Sunday.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

"We don't need [Joint List lawmaker] Ofer Cassif or Ben-Gvir to run Jerusalem. That is the role of the Israeli government and no one else."

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said at a meeting of his Yesh Atid party that "Ben-Gvir is not in Sheikh Jarrah in order to protect residents; he is there to inflame the area."

According to the Palestinian Red Crescent, 31 people were lightly injured in clashes on Sunday, six of whom were hit by sponge-tipped bullets and the rest hurt by tear gas inhalation. According to Ben-Gvir's aides, the Knesset member was attacked by police and fainted. He said on Monday morning: "Apparently there is an order to take down not just my parliamentary bureau, but myself as well. It won't help them."

The police reject his claims, saying Ben-Gvir pushed officers as they attempted to evacuate some of his supporters, and that he fell during the confrontation. In a video of the incident posted online, Ben Gvir is seen apparently pushing a police officer and falling.

Bar-Lev, who oversees the police, tweeted Monday: “There has never been a Knesset member who has raised a hand against a police officer. Parliamentary immunity is sacred; violence is indecent. Thank you to the police forces who are acting steadfastly in the sensitive area of Sheikh Jarrah, despite the provocations.”

Interior Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev, who oversees the police, tweeted in response on Monday morning: "There has never been a Knesset member who raised a hand against a police officer. Parliamentary immunity is sacred; violence is indecent. Thank you to the police forces who are acting steadfastly in the sensitive area of Sheikh Jarrah, despite the provocations."

The Jordanian Foreign Ministry released a statement Monday condemning the "provoking" practices carried out by Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem.

On Sunday, Ben-Gvir reestablished that makeshift bureau, which last went up days before the May fighting between Israel and Hamas, as Sheikh Jarrah was in turmoil over plans to evict Palestinian families over land claims. He eventually dismantled that office following a request from then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Sunday's clashes saw stone throwing by both Palestinian and Jewish youths, and the shooting of fireworks at police. Police used crowd-control measures, including water cannons and stun grenades. Twelve people, Palestinians and Jews, were arrested. During the riots, a few Jewish youths tried to break into a home in the neighborhood and to vandalize Arab cars on Route 1, the road that connects Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Police forces also had to intervene when Ahmed Tibi, an Arab Knesset member from the Joint List, and Arieh King, Jerusalem's pro-settler deputy mayor, scuffled. Footage from the site shows the two grabbing and shoving each other for a few seconds before officers managed to separate them.

A senior Hamas official told Haaretz that the Gazan militant group plans to use the current moment to pressure Israel via Egyptian mediators to bring calm to Sheikh Jarrah, as well as to improve the situation in the Gaza Strip. At the same time, Hamas' leadership, according to the source, is keen to avoid any significant escalation.

Ben-Gvir responded to Hamas' call for all Palestinians to join the struggle in the West Bank: “Every day, Hamas attempts to cause chaos in Jerusalem, and every day, Jews here are harmed by this. Thus, I will not acknowledge their threats, and I hope the Israeli government will understand that this is how a terror organization must be dealt with. We must respond without humiliation and without surrender, but with force, and as Jews.”

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