Security officials on Sunday urged the government to rethink the annual Jerusalem Day parade, a flag-waving display of Israeli claims to all of the contested city set to take place Monday, following days of unrest and Israeli-Palestinian clashes in the capital.
The officials called for the government to reconsider the route, the number of marchers and even the event itself.
The march marks Israel’s capture of East Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War, and is typically attended by hardline nationalist Israelis. Last year's parade was cancelled due to the pandemic.
The annual event is widely perceived as provocative, and this year’s parade comes at a particularly volatile time.
The march coincides with an expected decision Monday by the Supreme Court on the fate of dozens of Palestinians who are fighting attempts by settlers to evict them from their homes in Jerusalem’s Arab neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.
The recommendation from security officials came after police on Sunday gave the go-ahead for the march, which was set to begin at 4pm Monday on King George Street and follow two routes.
One group of marchers was to enter the Old City via the Damascus Gate, the recent site of repeated clashes between police and Palestinians, go through the Muslim Quarter and end at the Western Wall.
The second group was to enter the Old City via the Jaffa Gate and from there continue to the Western Wall.
Maj. Gen. (ret.) Amos Gilad, a former high-ranking IDF and Defense Ministry official, told Army Radio on Sunday that the parade should be canceled or rerouted away from the Damascus Gate.
“The powder keg is burning and can explode at any time,” he said.
Israel Police spokesman Eli Levi said Sunday that there were no plans to call off the parade, despite the rising friction and the potential for violence, but said police were constantly assessing the situation.
The organizers of the parade said they had not received any special instructions and they were continuing as planned.
"This year everything is as normal, except for one thing and that is the number of people at the Western Wall, which is a lesson learned from Meron," said organizer Boaz Yaakovi, referring to the deaths of 45 people in a crush at a Lag BaOmer celebration last month.
"At the moment the discussions about the numbers range from 8,000 to 15,000 people allowed at the Western Wall," he said.
Yaakovi dismissed concerns that the march could escalate already spiraling tensions in Jerusalem.
"The essence of the event is the unification of Jerusalem under the State of Israel and the flag of Israel, this is a very clear position. We are not marching to clash with anyone, but to express our sovereignty in Jerusalem in the liberated area and in the city center," he said.
"If you say that we cannot march with the Israeli flag in East Jerusalem, then the city is de facto divided. Jerusalem Day is determined by law, it cannot be moved on the calendar. For the last five years it has fallen on Ramadan and everything has been fine," he said.
But opponents of the march argue that holding the parade at this time would indeed increase tensions and lead to more violent incidents.
"The parade should be canceled in light of recent events, or at least its passage should be banned in the eastern part of the city and in the Muslim Quarter," said Yami Ben-David of the left-wing Standing Together organization.
"This is really a poke in the eye for the Palestinian population of the city," she said.
Before dawn Sunday, thousands of Muslim worshippers skirmished anew with police at the gates of the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City. Videos on social media showed Palestinians hurling water bottles and rocks at officers, who fired stun grenades.
The site, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, is considered the holiest site in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam. It has been a tinderbox for serious violence in the past.
Dozens of Palestinians were wounded in violent confrontations with police in Jerusalem overnight from Saturday to Sunday, when Muslims marked Laylat al-Qadr, the holiest period of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.