JERUSALEM (VINnews) — Despite the fact that Israel may have its first elected government in two years this week, this is not the lead item in the Israeli news this week. This could be because Israelis can hardly believe a government will indeed be formed, since the Likud and Prime Minister Netanyahu are still doing their utmost to prevent it, but it is also due to the contentious issue of the flag parade due to take place Thursday.
The flag parade has left the current government in a lose-lose situation. If it authorizes the parade, which is set to pass through the Muslim quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, it could once again ignite the already tense situation in the region, with Hamas once again threatening to fire rockets on Israel if the parade, which was originally scheduled for May 10 as part of the Jerusalem Day events but was delayed due to the eruption of fighting with Hamas in the Gaza Strip last month, takes place as planned. However if the government will cave in both to international pressure and pressure from left-wing elements opposed to the parade, it will be seen as a moral victory for Hamas and a severe erosion of Israel’s sovereignty in its capital city.
The obvious solution would be to divert the flag parade to a less provocative route, such as the Christian and Jewish quarters of the Old City, but organizers insist that this too would look like caving in to Hamas threats and surrendering sovereignty on parts of the capital.
On Monday police announced that they would not authorize the parade on its planned route, but the ultimate decision is not in the hands of the police but rather the government, which has yet to decide what course of action to take. In the meantime MK Itamar Ben-Gvir has stated that he will use his parliamentary immunity and follow the original route of the flag parade on Thursday. A number of right-wing groups have announced that they will join Ben-Gvir despite police reservations.
Some left-wing elements have accused Prime Minister Netanyahu of being behind the flag parade in an attempt to whip up tensions and cause another outbreak of hostilities which would delay the establishment of a new government. In order to offset these claims, the prime minister convened a meeting Monday evening with Defense Minister Gantz, Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai and Public Security Minister Amir Ohana in order to reach a framework which could allow for the parade to take place, express Israel’s sovereignty but somehow avoid the collision points with the East Jerusalem Arab population.