Officials can’t gauge how ‘Global March’ and other events will play
out, especially on Syrian border, but say they are ready
The army and police have raised their level of alert ahead of
Friday’s anticipated Land Day demonstrations and a so-called Global
March to Jerusalem in which activists claim vast numbers of
protesters will converge on Israel’s borders.
The march’s organizers have predicted that two million participants
will join the protests. Israeli officials say they are braced for
tens of thousands, and military sources said the army and policy have
been instructed to act with maximal restraint while doing what is
necessary to protect the country’s borders and citizens.
Diplomatic officials sounded relatively unworried by the planned
protests, although one source acknowledged that there was no way of
knowing what might unfold on the Syrian and Lebanese borders, because
Israel has no dialogue with anyone in authority on the other side of
either of those lines.
Several hundred anti-Israel demonstrators are also planning protests
in front of Israeli institutions worldwide.
In Jerusalem, access to the Temple Mount for Friday prayers will be
limited to adult worshipers, and police have called in extra forces.
Police deployments in hotspots nationwide are also being reinforced.
Sources expressed concern at the prospect of violence in and around
the Temple Mount in East Jerusalem as well as on the outskirts of
Jerusalem, at known flashpoints such as the Kalandiya checkpoint.
There are also concerns that a settler takeover of a home in Hebron
overnight Wednesday-Thursday may intensify frictions in the West Bank.
“The IDF is prepared for any eventuality and will do whatever is
necessary to protect Israeli borders and residents,” IDF spokesman
Capt. Arye Shalicar told The Times of Israel.
IDF troops stationed along Israel’s borders have been placed on high
alert. Organizers of the protest marches planned for Friday fear they
could turn violent, Haaretz reported, mainly because of the
involvement of international activists, some of whom have arrived in
the area from remote places, including East Asia.
“This is just one more protest rally organized by Islamist and
radical activist, nothing more and nothing less,” Foreign Ministry
spokesman Yigal Palmor told The Times of Israel. “We abide by ‘The
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’: Don’t panic,” he said, he said,
referring to the catchphrase of a popular science fiction book.
Friday’s Land Day is marked annually by Israeli Arabs and
Palestinians to commemorate fatal 1976 protests over land
expropriation in which Israeli forces killed six Arab citizens.
Coinciding with Land Day, pro-Palestinian activists are planning to
hold a “Global March to Jerusalem” to protest “Israeli apartheid and
ethnic cleansing, to demand access to Jerusalem for all peoples, and
to uphold Palestinian rights under international law, including
refugees’ right of return,” according to the website of the
organizers’ North American branch. The campaign’s spokesperson, Zaher
Berawi, said the participants of the march plan to “besiege Israel
and its embassies over the world.”
As reported by The Times of Israel on Monday, organizers claim that
two million protesters plan to march toward the borders of Israel and
take part in activities designed to highlight Jerusalem’s Arab
Ribhi Haloum, general coordinator of the “Global March to Jerusalem,”
said in a press statement this week that volunteers from 80 countries
will take part in the march. Jordan and Lebanon will send protesters
to the border, whereas Egypt will organize a solidarity marathon from
Cairo University to the pyramids in Giza and a large rally at Al-
“Why should we prepare anything? Land Day demonstrations happen every
year. No special strategy is needed,” a diplomatic official
said. “All this is of little consequence. The army is prepared for
all eventualities, but if there are some demonstrations with some
stone throwing, it’s not going to be a major diplomatic incident.
Such things happen all the time.”
As long as the demonstrations take place outside of Israel’s borders,
the government has no business getting involved, the official
continued. “Only if a group of violent demonstrators gives it a go at
a border run, might we have to act. As a sovereign state we cannot
tolerate a breach of our territory by protesters from hostile
“Messages have been sent through a third country to the Lebanese
authorities, messages to the effect that border incidents are of no
interest to anyone and that we expect them to enforce law and order,”
a diplomatic source said. “But we all know who really controls the
South of Lebanon, so we don’t know really know what to expect,” he
added, referring to Hezbollah fighters who might seek violent
confrontation with Israeli troops.
Israelis and Jordanians routinely cooperate on military issues and
thus it was not necessary to send any warning messages to Amman, the
diplomatic official said. “The Jordanians know it’s against their
interests to have any cross-border incidents.”
“The big question is what will happen near our borders with Syria and
Lebanon. Nobody can forecast what’s going to happen. There is no one
in Syria we can send any messages to, not even indirectly.”
Israeli officials’ uncertainty over what might ensue stems in part
from last May’s Nakba Day and last June’s Naksa Day demonstrations,
both of which saw border clashes. Over 100 protesters breached the
poorly protected Syrian border fence on Nakba Day — which marks
the “catastrophe” of the 1948 events that saw the founding of Israel —
while Egypt and Jordan thwarted efforts by protesters to reach
border areas. A month later, the army repelled further protests in
violent confrontations at the Syrian border.
Lebanese forces prevented activists from reaching the Lebanon-Israel
border last year, and there have been suggestions that Lebanese
protests Friday will also be held in check. Given the anarchy in
Syria, however, there are no confident assessments about how matters
might play out on that border and the IDF is said to be deploying