Jerusalem is not united, say Israeli analysts

Far-right Jewish settlers gather around Damascus Gate in East Jerusalem for the Flag March on May 29, 2022 (Mostafa Alkharouf - Anadolu Agency)

Middle East Monitor  /  May 30, 2022

Israeli analysts have said that events in occupied Jerusalem yesterday did not prove Israel’s sovereignty over the city, only that the occupation security forces could display their power and the racism of participants in the provocative flag march was obvious. They also noted that the Israeli army’s assessments still indicate that Hamas in the Gaza Strip is not interested in any escalation.

The parliamentary correspondent for Yedioth Ahronoth, Amichai Attali, stressed what many in Israel in Israel say: “Jerusalem is not really united, and the only ones who celebrate its partial unification are the ones who wear knitted hoods,” a veiled reference to the followers of religious Zionism and Haredi nationalism, the extremists of the Israeli right.

“Let’s see them walk alone, on an ordinary day, in the path of the paratroopers who liberated Jerusalem, from Augusta Victoria Hospital through the Lions Gate to the Temple Mount [Al-Aqsa Mosque]. None of them will dare to do so, and hardly any Jews in the world will dare to do so. Walking this path with the flag of Israel is certain suicide.”

Attali stressed that the flag march actually means nothing. “Last night, after folding the flags, no one thought of carrying out a similar march alone. We must stop lying to ourselves. There is no sovereignty in Jerusalem during the era of Naftali Bennett. There was no such sovereignty under Netanyahu, Olmert, Sharon, or all their predecessors [as prime ministers of Israel]. Because the leaders did not dare to make decisions, Jerusalem was never united.”

According to Haaretz military analyst Amos Harel, “Despite great efforts by far-right activists, Sunday’s Flag March in the Old City of Jerusalem didn’t lead to a major conflagration between Israel and the Palestinians. Instead, we witnessed the usual collection of racist displays, violent scuffles between Jews and Arabs and a general sense of revulsion. The dubious achievement of last year’s march – when Hamas responded by firing rockets at Jerusalem, leading to the last round of fighting in the Gaza Strip – was not replicated this year.”

Harel pointed out that the difference between this year and 2021 may be the circumstances. “Last year, the Hamas leadership in Gaza committed in advance to ‘defend Al-Aqsa’ from Israel’s moves. This time, the organisation’s warnings were more general and did not specify its retaliatory steps.” He added that, “The IDF’s intelligence wing did not change the assessment it made in the weeks prior to the march that Hamas was not interested in a direct military clash in Gaza.”

Reconstruction work in the Gaza Strip is proceeding with some momentum, he said, so a new military conflict at this time would have been inconvenient for Hamas. “One may assume that the efforts of mediators – members of Egyptian intelligence – also had an impact and that Hamas was expecting a reward if it continued to show restraint in Gaza.”

The Netanyahu government changed the course of the flag march last year, following intelligence information that Hamas would launch rocket-propelled grenades in response. This year, the Bennett government behaved differently, explained Harel. “A few weeks ago, it already gave public permission to march through Damascus Gate. The move was wrapped in much rhetoric of sovereignty, patriotism and our eternal capital forever and ever. But in practice it was the result in large part of political exigencies. Prime Minister Bennett is under heavy pressure from the right, especially from rogue members of his own Yamina party. Any attempt to divert the route or rein in the marchers might have triggered another crisis in his coalition, which has already lost its solid Knesset majority.”

He pointed out that “more than enough ugly incidents took place and were documented,” and he explained that Meir Kahane’s racist vision is gaining popularity amongst the younger generation. The great respect and welcome for “senior Kahanist, MK Itamar Ben-Gvir indicated the seriousness of the situation.”