Cabinet presses police to prepare alternative plans to allow Flag March

If the parade is canceled, all the deterrence won in Operation Guardian of the Walls will be lost, argues Internal Security Minister Amir Ohana.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The political echelon stepped in on Monday to press for alternatives to allow the annual Flag March to take place after police nixed the parade for security reasons. Authorities deemed the march’s route through the Old City’s Arab Quarter too potentially dangerous.

The police had already clarified that they could be amenable to approving the annual parade of flag-waving youth if the route and/or the date were changed. They stressed that the reason for canceling now was because they had concrete information regarding threats to escalate the situation and their concern was for the public’s safety.

According to Channel 12, at a cabinet meeting with Police Commissioner Koby Shabtai, Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman and other officials, Shabtai agreed to come up with alternative routes for the parade that the police would be willing to authorize so that it could possibly still occur on Thursday, its rescheduled date.

The original parade was stopped in the middle on May 10 after Hamas launched a barrage of missiles at Jerusalem, triggering Operation Guardian of the Walls.

Internal Security Minister Amir Ohana said that bowing to threats of violence would be worse for Israel in the long run.

“What will cancelling the Israeli flag [parade] in Israel’s capital do to [our] deterrence?” Ohana asked Shabtai. “What message will this send to Hamas? Do you understand that we launched an operation to strengthen deterrence and are now giving Hamas a picture of victory? And the next day there will be an ascent to Al-Aqsa [Mosque] for them to celebrate our humiliation.”

Hamas chief Yahyah Sinwar had warned of mass Arab protests if the march took place. After the announcement of the cancellation, the 0404 news site reported that a call had gone out for “all Palestinians” to revel in the fact that the “occupation” had knuckled under “for fear of threats from the resistance,” by marching on Thursday from Damascus Gate to the Temple Mount at the time the parade was to have taken place.

Argaman, who took the Hamas threats seriously, responded that “The arena is hot, the event could stir up the sector.”

On Sunday, former Jerusalem District police commander Arieh Amit told the news channel that it was the right move not to authorize the march, “not because of Hamas’s warnings but because it is completely clear that this is an attempt to ignite East Jerusalem. There is no disagreement that the situation is incredibly volatile and sensitive and movement could cause great damage and serious disturbances.”

In contrast, Likud Minister of Regional Cooperation Ofir Akunis took a firm ideological line.

“The security forces need to provide security to the marchers. If we give up on Jerusalem, we give up everything,” he told Israel Radio on Sunday.

The plan is currently for the full cabinet to meet at 5:30 pm to discuss the issue with the police’s alternative suggestions in hand.