JERUSALEM – Israel’s fragile new coalition government has faced a first test of its unity after giving permission on Tuesday night to far-right Jewish activists to march through Palestinian territories in Jerusalem.
The march is a rescheduled version of an aborted far-right march originally planned for last month, which the group quoted as firing rockets at Jerusalem on May 10, sparking an 11-day air war between Hamas and Israel.
The situation highlighted the weaknesses of the new coalition, which on Sunday night replaced Israel’s longest-serving leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, in a vote of confidence in parliament that took over with just one vote – 60 to 59 – with one abstention. The bloc is an unnecessary alliance of the hard right, left and center, as well as, for the first time ever, an independent Arab party, which has no common ground other than a desire for Mr. To keep Netanyahu in power again.
For right-wing and many centrist members of the alliance, including Naftali Bennett, the new hard-right prime minister, the march is a matter of national pride: a celebration of their right to march through territories of Jerusalem captured by Israel during 1967. was taken. Arab-Israeli war, which Israel now considers part of its undivided capital. Launching as a ‘flag march’, the event takes place every year and features thousands of marchers waving Israeli flags but was stopped in May due to the rocket from Gaza.
One of the last acts of the Netanyahu government was to reschedule the march for Tuesday. The decision was upheld on his first day in office by Omer Bar-Lev, the new center-left public safety minister – to the praise of his new right-wing allies.
“I congratulate Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev on his decision to hold the flag dance tomorrow,” he said. tweeted Nir Orbach, a hard-line member of the coalition who almost fell out of the alliance before the vote was cast. ‘The flag dance is part of the culture of religious Zionism and is held regularly. It does not have to be a political dance or a proof of government, but must be a display of joy. ‘
But for Arab and left-wing coalition members, it is a challenging gesture. It offends Palestinians, who do not celebrate the conquest of East Jerusalem, who are still considered occupied by many of the world, and who hope that one day it will form the capital of a Palestinian state. Palestinian families living on the route of the march often go up in their homes and shops in anticipation of abuse and violence by the marchers.
Following the decision to allow the march, the most important United Nations envoy in the region, Tor Wennesland, warned of increasing tension and asked all parties to ” avoid all provocations that could lead to another round of confrontation ”.
The U.S. Department of State has banned its employees from entering the Old City of Jerusalem, where the marchers would continue, according to Palestinian neighborhoods, on their way to the Western Wall, a sacred site in Judaism.
Inter-communal violence between Jews and Arabs in Jerusalem and across Israel forms the background for the recent war, and some fear a resurgence.
Mossi Raz, a lawmaker from Meretz, a left-wing party that controls three ministries in the new government, likens the march to holding a pride parade in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood.
“If we know it’s dangerous, why do we need it?” he said in a radio interview on Tuesday. “They are interested in provocation.”
Mansour Abbas, the leader of Raam, an Arab Islamic party within the coalition, said he did not discuss the matter with Mr. Bennett did not raise, and underestimated the idea of making it a wedge between the coalition partners.
“If we quarrel over everything, there is no doubt that this coalition will fall apart,” he said. Abbas said in a radio interview on Tuesday. But he also called the march a provocation. “I hope it will pass without escalation, but Jerusalem is a sensitive city,” he said. “The whole world is watching and reacting to what is happening.”
The march is already risking an increase in the fight with Hamas, which has threatened a violent response, while still indicating that it cannot use something as drastic as rockets.
“What is certain is that we cannot remain silent in the face of the flag march, which is very challenging and part of the internal politics of the occupation,” said Mohammad Hamada, a spokesman for the militant group. “If the occupation carries out this arrogance, we have several options before us. Armed resistance from Gaza is not the only option. We have the Jerusalem and West Bank front, where we can participate in popular resistance. But we also do not exclude armed resistance. ”
On Tuesday, fires broke out in southern Israel, attributing Israeli firefighters to burning balloons released by militants in Gaza.
Gaza barely began recovery from the fighting last month, which killed at least 250 Palestinians and 13 Israelis and damaged more than 16,000 homes, 28 medical facilities and water and sewage works in Gaza, according to the United Nations. Reconstruction has yet to begin in earnest, and Israel and Egypt, which control access to Gaza, are still holding back significant financial and material assistance – all factors that, according to some analysts, will make Hamas wary of inciting Israel to another round of airstrikes.
But others expect Hamas to test the new government early. And after trying to establish himself as a symbolic standard-bearer for Palestinians in Jerusalem during the conflict in May, Hamas leaders may not want to withdraw so quickly.
In turn, the new government is under pressure to prevent it from capitulating to Hamas.
“Israel can not be a hostage of a terrorist organization,” Amos Yadlin, the former head of Israeli military intelligence, said in a radio interview on Tuesday. “As for Hamas, it determines to Israel what they should do in Jerusalem. It must be shown that it did not win here. ‘
Adam Rasgon and Myra Noveck contribution made.