Israel to allow anti-Palestinian march through East Jerusalem's Old City
Israeli officials said on Tuesday that they would allow a right-wing march through East Jerusalem's Old City to go ahead next week under certain conditions, a day after police barred the event's route fearing it would rekindle violence.
Usually held on the occasion of Jerusalem Day, which marks Israel’s capture and subsequent occupation of East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East War, the so-called Flag March typically brings together thousands of young, far-right religious Israelis, to chant anti-Palestinian slogans and wave Israeli flags as they pass through the area's small streets.
The far-right groups had planned the procession, already cancelled from 10 May, on Thursday, drawing warnings from Gaza's rulers Hamas of renewed hostilities should it proceed.
The groups cancelled the Thursday march, which would have taken them through the walled Old City's Damascus Gate and into its Muslim quarter, after police denied them a permit on Monday.
However, following 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 agreement on the route.
"The parade will take place this coming Tuesday (15 June) in a format to be agreed between the police and the parade's organisers," a statement from Netanyahu's office said.
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 minister-hopeful Naftali Bennett and his partner, opposition leader Yair Lapid, to decide whether to proceed with the march.
Tal Schneider, a leading 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."
'Surrender to Hamas'
Tensions are likely to remain high in Jerusalem whether or not the march goes ahead.
Protests have flared in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where Palestinian families face possible eviction after an Israeli court accepted settler land claims.
Far-right lawmaker 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".
Initially scheduled for 10 May, the route of the Flag March had been diverted away from the flashpoint Damascus Gate amid Palestinian protests against the planned forcible removal of Palestinian residents of the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, and Israeli forces' violent raids at al-Aqsa Mosque.
The march was called off that day, when sirens went off after Hamas fired four rockets from the besieged Gaza Strip onto the outskirts of Jerusalem, following the expiry that day of its ultimatum calling on Israeli forces to withdraw from al-Aqsa.
Israel illegally annexed East Jerusalem and considers all of the city as 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.