Right wing reacts: Defense minister is being ‘cowardly’ in bowing to Hamas threats.
By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
Defense Minister Benny Gantz rejected Saturday night the scheduled flag march this week that was to substitute for the annual Jerusalem Day event halted by Hamas rocket fire last month, raising the ire of right-wing politicians.
“After hearing the assessment of the security situation and the operational efforts required from the police and the IDF, [the Defense Minister has] concluded that he would demand not to hold a flag parade in Jerusalem this week in a framework that would require special security efforts and could harm public order and political processes that are currently taking place,” a statement from Gantz’s office read.
Gantz reached the decision following a meeting with a slew of top security officials, including IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi, the coordinator of government activities in the territories and the police commissioner.
MK Simcha Rotman of the Religious Zionist Party (RZP) reacted angrily to Gantz’s decision on Sunday morning, saying, “this is a march with Israeli flags in Jerusalem. Anyone who is unable to provide security for such a march does not deserve the title of defense minister.”
The parade, an annual event in which thousands of mostly national-religious youth dance through the streets of Jerusalem and the Muslim Quarter of the Old City while waving Israeli flags, is a celebration of the reunification of the capital following 1967’s Six Day War. Israeli Arab and Jewish left-wing politicians often criticize the nationalistic event, calling it a ‘provocation.’
Hamas, which not coincidentally launched a salvo of missiles at Jerusalem during the parade on May 10, triggering the IDF’s 11-day Operation Guardian of the Walls in Gaza, had called for “mass protests at al-Aqsa Mosque” on the Temple Mount if the march would take place. The terrorist organization’s Gazan chief, Yahya Sinwar, threatened to “burn Israel to the ground” if the mosque is “threatened again.”
The Palestinians habitually charge Israel with trying to take over the Temple Mount and call on their activists to “defend al-Aqsa.”
RZP head Betzalel Smotrich called Gantz a “coward” for knuckling under the verbal intimidation.
“We didn’t wait for a Jewish, independent, sovereign state for 2,000 years only to have a cowardly defense minister publicly bow to Hamas’s terror threats (while inviting more threats and more terrorism) and seek to prevent Jews from marching with Israeli flags in Jerusalem, our holy city and the united capital,” he tweeted.
Backing up Gantz’s decision, Yesh Atid MK Ram Ben Barak said the timing of the march was meant to derail the so-called unity government from being voted in this week in the Knesset, which will throw the Likud and religious parties into the Opposition for the first time in 12 years.
The police will meet Sunday to make the final call on the march. Hebrew media have reported that it is likely that modified approval will be given, whereby the parade will be allowed but in a route that will not include marching through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City.