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Israeli Lawmaker Defies Hamas Threats, Promises To Hold Jerusalem Day Flag March
Itamar Ben-Gvir, member of Israel's Knesset (parliament) and head of the one-man far right "Jewish Power" (Otzma Yehudit) party, gives an interview with AFP at his office in the Knesset building in Jerusalem on May 26, 2021. - As Israelis clashed with Palestinians in recent weeks, the hardline nationalist lawmaker allied with embattled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was repeatedly stoking the flames. The 45-year-old lawyer and father of six, who lives in a settlement near Hebron in the Israel-occupied West Bank, took his seat in the Knesset in April as part of a "Religious Zionism" alliance orchestrated by Netanyahu. (Photo by Menahem KAHANA / AFP) (Photo by MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP via Getty Images)

Israeli MK Itamar Ben-Gvir, head of the right-wing Otzma Yehudit party, has said he plans to walk the “full route” of a planned march celebrating Jerusalem Day whether or not the police agree to watch over the event.

Ben-Gvir said in a statement Tuesday that he would march on Thursday despite the Israeli government and police postponing the event until next Tuesday, calling the postponement a “surrender to Hamas.” Hamas, a U.S.-recognized terror group, signaled earlier this week that it would lash out at Israel should the flag march take place.

“The postponement of the march is a surrender to Hamas and a fold in the face of a terrorist organization. Hamas has ruled that Jews will not march through the Old City on Thursday. The Government of Israel and the Israel Police surrendered,” Ben-Gvir said, according to a translation of his tweet.

“The police are not ready to make a commitment to the organizers who will march at the Nablus Gate. On Thursday I will arrive in the Old City of Jerusalem and march with Israeli flags – I will not accept the disgrace,” he added.

The Jerusalem Day march, known as the Flag March, has happened annually since Israel reunified Jerusalem during the Six-Day War in 1967. Israel defeated Jordan to take control of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, including the Old City and Temple Mount. Israel also defeated Egypt to take the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip, and Syria to capture the Golan Heights.

While Jerusalem Day took place on May 10 this year, the Flag March was canceled at the last minute after Hamas launched a series of rocket attacks on Israel resulting in the latest bout of military conflict between Israel and the terror group. The Flag March was rescheduled for June 10. Earlier this week, Hamas leaders issued statements encouraging Palestinians to “protect the al-Aqsa mosque from the malice of the Zionists and their schemes” should the Flag March take place.

Ben-Gvir has pushed to keep the Flag March on Thursday despite the threats, arguing that to choose another option would empower Hamas to dictate Israeli policy. Ben-Gvir has pledged to march whether or not the Flag Day walk is sanctioned or not, and as a member of the Knesset has the right to go anywhere in Jerusalem and to be protected by a police detail.

In light of the threats from Hamas, the Jerusalem police and members of Israel’s government, including Defense Minister Benny Gantz, began backing off from holding the march. Other Knesset members immediately accused Gantz and the police commissioner of allowing Hamas to dictate Israelis’ conduct in their capital city.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is poised to lose his prime ministership for the second time in his career, pushed for the Flag March to take place. He requested the police provide alternate solutions and routes for the marchers to travel. On Tuesday, the Israeli government agreed to postpone the march until next week, according to Arutz Sheva 7.

Netanyahu is on the verge of being ousted as Israel’s prime minister after 12 consecutive years in the office. A shaky left-right coalition has agreed to form a unity government set to be voted on in the Knesset on Sunday. If the vote comes through for the unity government, Naftali Bennett, head of the New Right party and a late arrival to the unity coalition, would replace Netanyahu as prime minister.

Next Tuesday’s planned Flag March is set up to be the first test of the unity government, which would include members of the Arab-Islamist party Ra’am.

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