Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Political-Security Cabinet will debate on Tuesday whether to permit Thursday’s flags parade in its traditional route, which includes walking to the Kotel through the Damascus Gate and the Muslim quarter. The cabinet debate was suggested by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit who made it clear to Netanyahu and Homeland Security Minister Amir Ohana that going against the professional decision of the police regarding the parade required a political decision. Justice and Defense Minister Benny Gantz also stressed the need for a cabinet-level decision on the matter.
Security officials argued during Monday night’s discussion led by the PM regarding Thursday’s parade that the event should not be held at present and certainly not in the format the organizers wanted—namely the way it has been done almost every year since the inception of the idea of having a flags parade on Jerusalem Liberation day. Last month, in deference to Muslim sentiments (it was Ramadan) and in fear of Arab riots in the streets (it was Ramadan), the flag marchers were forced by police to alter their route. Now they wish to do it again but this time in the original format that includes reaffirming the Jewish ownership of the liberated city by carrying Israeli national flags through the Muslim quarter.
It was that insistence on Jewish pride that led to the police directing to cancel the second parade, for fear of violence. So Jewish pride is dangerous, but the same Jerusalem police managed to protect the gay pride parade a week or so ago, taking aggressive measures to detain and remove Jewish activists they feared would disrupt Jerusalem’s homosexuals from exercising their democratic right to parade in the streets.
At the end of Monday night’s meeting, it was decided that Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai would examine alternatives to the parade route and submit them to the political echelon on Tuesday.
A lot depends on Netanyahu’s ability to facilitate this week’s flags procession. In effect, this his last chance to show his value to the right-wing, nationalist voters who have grown accustomed to his making election promises of settlement expansion and sovereignty for the Israeli citizens living in Judea and Samaria only to break them after the election. It may be an easy decision for the defeated PM: whatever the negative repercussions of his choice to allow the parade – they’ll be the next guy’s problem. The fact that the next guy happens to be Naftali Bennett, whose politics and constituency are well to the right of Netanyahu only makes this more delicious for the departing leader.
Religious Zionism chairman Bezalel Smotrich, who was a fierce critic of the police unilateral decision to ban the parade, posted a conciliatory tweet Tuesday morning: “Flag dance update: as of this morning there is a serious dialogue of goodwill between the police and the organizers, supervised personally by the police commissioner himself, to find an agreed outline that would allow the parade to take place, preserving Jewish sovereignty in Jerusalem as well as our national honor in the face of Hamas [threats], while understanding the police constraints. I congratulate the commissioner and hope he finds the solution.”
MK Itamar Ben-Gvir told Reshet Bet radio on Tuesday: “As soon we surrender in the Shimon HaTzadik (Sheikh Jarrah – DI) neighborhood despite the high court’s ruling that Jews should live there because Hamas says so, and then when they say there will be no flag parade because Hamas says so, [I have to ask,] did we fall on our heads? These measures only encourage Hamas to commit acts of terrorism.”
It sounded much better and juicier in Hebrew, but the bottom line is that most Israeli right-wingers are watching Netanyahu’s decision on this one, and, clearly, he knows it.