Israeli 'flag march' in Jerusalem could go ahead depending on who is PM

Tensions likely to remain high in Jerusalem whether or not the march goes ahead

Israeli security forces form a human chain to prevent Palestinians from passing through an Israeli Police checkpoint at the entrance of the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in east Jerusalem, during a protest by demonstrators demanding the reopening of the roadblock, on May 22, 2021. Tensions between Israel and Palestinians that lead to military violence initially flared in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of occupied east Jerusalem, where Israeli police cracked down on people protesting the planned expulsion of Palestinian families from their homes so Jewish settlers could move in. / AFP / Ahmad GHARABLI

A right-wing march in Jerusalem's Old City will go ahead next week under certain conditions, a day after police stopped the event saying the routing could rekindle conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza.

Several right-wing Israeli groups had planned a flag-waving procession through the walled Old City's Damascus Gate and into its Muslim quarter on Thursday, drawing warnings from Gaza's rulers Hamas of renewed hostilities should it proceed.

The far-right groups cancelled the Thursday march after police denied them a permit. But after a meeting of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Cabinet on Tuesday, his office said ministers had agreed the march could be held next week if organisers and police reached an agreement. The principal issue is the route.

"The parade will take place this coming Tuesday [June 15] in a format to be agreed between the police and the parade's organisers," the prime minister's office said.

Mr Netanyahu faces an end to his long hold on power on Sunday when the country's legislature is scheduled to vote on approving a government of diverse parties that came together to unseat him.

If that vote is successful, it will be up to prime ministerial hopeful Naftali Bennett and his partner, opposition leader Yair Lapid, to decide whether to proceed with the march.

Tal Schneider, a prominent political reporter in Israel, said on Twitter: "The flag parade has been postponed to June 15, two days after the government is sworn in, meaning it will be Naftali Bennett's headache."

Tensions are likely to remain high in Jerusalem whether or not the march goes ahead. Protests flared in the East Jerusalem district of Sheikh Jarrah, where Palestinian families face possible eviction after an Israeli court accepted Jewish settler land claims.

Far-right legislator Itamar Ben-Gvir rejected the march's postponement as a "surrender to Hamas", saying on Twitter he would still "arrive on Thursday in the Old City of Jerusalem and march with Israeli flags".

The original march on May 10 was re-routed at the last minute when tensions in Jerusalem led Hamas to fire rockets towards the holy city. Israel responded with air strikes, and the most serious cross-border fighting with Hamas in years raged for 11 days before a ceasefire was reached.

Israel annexed East Jerusalem, in a move that has not won international recognition, after capturing the area in the 1967 Middle East war. It considers all of Jerusalem its capital.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of a state they seek to establish in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

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