Confiscate the Fuel and Matches From the Pyromaniacs, Re-route the Flag March

Haaretz Editorial
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The Flag March on Jerusalem Day in 2019Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Haaretz Editorial

Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin is expected to announce in the Knesset Monday that Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid has succeeded in forming a government. As a result, the so-called change government is to be sworn in by next Monday. It appears, however, that in the interim the supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are determined to set Jerusalem, Israel and the entire Middle East on fire, perhaps in the hope that another round of violence will thwart the transition of power. That is the only possible rationale for the inflammatory initiative of the Religious Zionism party, the Binyamin and Gush Etzion local authorities, the Bnei Akiva and Ariel youth movements and the right-wing group Im Tirtzu.

These organizations seek to hold another Flag March in the Old City of Jerusalem Thursday, which unlike the one on Jerusalem Day this year, May 10, would pass through Damascus Gate and the Muslim Quarter, to spite the Palestinians – even though Israel is far from having recovered from the recent Gaza operation. That round of violence erupted, inter alia, in the wake of the May 10 Flag March. “We’re going back to march in the streets of Jerusalem with heads held high and Israel flags,” the organizers announced, making it clear that we can expect a rerun of nationalist defiance.

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Indeed, Gazan Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar already declared Saturday that his organization “has proved to Israel that there is someone who will defend Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is a strategic goal for the Palestinians.” According to the police, and at odds with what has been posted by the march's organizers, it has not yet approved the route announced by the organizers. Jerusalem District commander Doron Turgeman is expected to evaluate the situation on Sunday. Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai and Turgeman must not lend a hand to this despicable attempt to foment unrest in the city at such a sensitive time. Turgeman needs no reminder, nor, surely, does Shabtai, of the chain of events that led to the conflagration in Jerusalem and other mixed cities during the recent escalation with Hamas.

In fact, Shabtai directly accused Itamar Ben-Gvir and his Religious Zionism party of instigating the unrest in Israel. Shabtai put it very simply: “The person responsible for this intifada is Itamar Ben-Gvir. It started with the protests of Lehava at Damascus Gate and continued with the provocation in Sheikh Jarrah, and now he’s going around to the cities with Lehava activists.”

There’s no point asking Netanyahu and Public Security Minister Amir Ohana to act responsibly and prevent the march – they are clearly irresponsible, and they make political hay from unrest between Jews and Arabs. The new government, which includes left and right, Jews and Arabs, was born precisely out of recognition of this painful fact. And so, at this time all that’s left is to ask the police to act responsibly, confiscate the fuel and matches from the pyromaniacs and, at the very least, prevent the march in the Muslim Quarter.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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