Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter has signed a number of injunctions banning a series of events titled "Jerusalem, the capital of Arab culture," which were scheduled to be held Saturday in Jerusalem, Nazareth and in other parts of the country under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority (PA).
Dichter instructed Israel Police to "suppress any attempts by the PA to hold events in Jerusalem and throughout the rest of the country." According to the minister, the events would constitute a violation of the interim agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, which includes a clause that forbids the PA from organizing events in Israeli territory.
Mass police and Border Guard forces will be deployed in Jerusalem and Nazareth to enforce Dichter's order.
The festival was organized in the framework of a series of events held throughout the Arab world following the declaration of Jerusalem as the "Arab cultural capital in 2009." The festivities are expected to kick off in the West Bank city of Bethlehem.
The festival was supposed to be held two months ago but was delayed due to Israel's military offensive in Gaza.
Nazareth Mayor Ramiz Jeraisi said in response to the ban that "I never thought they (Israeli authorities) would take it this far. After all, this is a cultural event."
The mayor said Dichter was made aware of the planned festivities as early as March 11 but decided to wait nine days before issuing the order "to prevent a public outcry and legal action on our part.
"Dichter is trying to compete with (Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman) Avigdor Lieberman's anti-Arab trend, and anyone who holds democracy and freedom of expression dear must condemn his position," he said.
Sharon Roffe-Ofir, Hagai Einav and Efrat Weiss contributed to the report