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Bennett govt approves right-wing march through Jerusalem

The original march on May 10 was rerouted at the last minute as tensions in Jerusalem had escalated

Tuesday June 15, 2021 11:25 AM, Agencies

Jerusalem March

[The new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (L, front row), Israeli President Reuven Rivlin (C, front row) and Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (R, front row) pose for a group photo with the new government ministers at the President's residence in Jerusalem, June 14, 2021. (JINI via Xinhua)]

Tel Aviv/Occupied Jerusalem: Israel’s new government in some of its first decisions taken on the first day in office Monday approved the controversial march by far-right nationalists and pro-settler groups through occupied East Jerusalem’s Old City.

The original march on May 10 was rerouted at the last minute as tensions in Jerusalem had escalated.

The latest decision risks inflaming tensions with Palestinians hours after veteran leader Benjamin Netanyahu handed over power to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

"Well Prepared"

After meeting with Israel’s police chief and other security officials, newly sworn-in Internal Security Minister Omer Barlev approved the march and said police were well-prepared, according to a statement carried by Israeli media.

“(Great) efforts are being undertaken to preserve the delicate fabric of life and public security,” Barlev was quoted as saying.

Also Read | When Naftali Bennett admitted killing Arabs, vowed to kill Palestinian children

In the flag-waving procession, planned for Tuesday, far-right groups will march in and around East Jerusalem’s walled Old City, where tensions have remained high since 11 days of fighting between Israel and Gaza militants in May.

"Day of Rage"

Palestinian factions have called for a “day of rage” against the Jerusalem march, with memories of clashes with Israeli police still fresh from last month in the contested city’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and in a neighborhood where Palestinians face eviction in a court dispute with Jewish settlers.

“This is a provocation of our people and an aggression against our Jerusalem and our holy sites,” Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said of the march.

"No Handover Ceremony"

The newly formed government in Israel started work with the country's prime minister Naftali Bennett and his predecessor Netanyahu meeting on Monday afternoon for a transition meeting, Xinhua news agency.

The formal handover ceremony that accompanies a change of Prime Ministers was not held.

David Bitan, a lawmaker with Netanyahu's Likud party, told state-owned Kan news TV that Netanyahu would not hold the ceremony because he feels "cheated" by the establishment of the new government and "doesn't want to give even the slightest legitimacy to this matter".

Bennett, a nationalist and leader of the pro-settler Yamina party, and Yair Lapid, a centrist and leader of the Yesh Atid party, were sworn in on Sunday after Parliament narrowly approved their new coalition government.

"Coalition Agreement"

Under a coalition agreement, Bennett and Lapid will rotate as Prime Ministers.

Bennett, also a former Defence Minister, will serve as Prime Minister for the first two-year term and Lapid as alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister before rotating for the latter two-year term.

On Monday morning, President Reuven Rivlin hosted Bennett, Lapid and the ministers at his official residence in Jerusalem for the official photo of the new government.

Later, the government's 28 ministers entered their offices and handover ceremonies were held.

The establishment of the eight-party coalition government ousted Netanyahu, the longest-serving leader who is facing a criminal trial over corruption charges.

It also ended a lingering political crisis that has seen four rounds of elections in two years.


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