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Attempted intimidation then and now

The post-Shield and Arrow Jerusalem Day Flag Parade will be very different from 2021.

Jews celebrate Jerusalem Day in the Israeli capital, May 29, 2022. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Jews celebrate Jerusalem Day in the Israeli capital, May 29, 2022. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Douglas Altabef
Douglas Altabef
Douglas Altabef is chairman of the board of Im Tirtzu and a director of the Israel Independence Fund. He can be reached at [email protected]

You can set your watch by it. In the runup to the Jerusalem Day Flag Parade, Hamas makes threats that sound like an angry homeowner yelling at frolicking passersby to get off his lawn.

Hamas likes to express anger about “thuggery” in Jerusalem, as if we are all interlopers, trespassers and intruders.

Of course, this is all related to ever-delusional threats to the Al-Aqsa mosque and one must understand that, to Hamas, all of Jerusalem—certainly the Old City, but likely all of the city—is Al-Aqsa.

In 2021, there was a significant amount of debate and handwringing about the wisdom, even the appropriateness, of holding the Flag Parade. Some said that it was a needless provocation. Others said it was a gratuitous invitation to a reaction from Hamas.

The upshot is that the Parade did take place, though its route was changed in the mistaken belief that not marching through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City would be seen as a meaningful concession.

Hamas fired six missiles at Jerusalem and many others elsewhere. Most shockingly, we saw pogrom-like rioting in so-called “mixed cities,” where Arabs turned on their Jewish neighbors.

Calm was eventually restored, but severe scars were left from feelings of fifth-column-like betrayal.

Fast forward two years later and the picture seems remarkably different. In three words, the difference can be summarized as “restoration of deterrence.”

Operation Shield and Arrow has just recently ended. That operation, which saw the Israeli Air Force eliminate much of the senior leadership of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, was not only a rude awakening for PIJ but for Hamas as well.

This operation marked the end of timid and tentative responses by Israel to unrestrained and all-out aggression by the enemy. Israel succeeded not only in neutering PIJ but also neutralizing both Hamas and Hezbollah. In other words, these entities were content to let PIJ face the vengeful wrath of the IDF on its own.

Shield and Arrow was a masterful display of brilliant intelligence that led to amazingly accurate and effective pinpoint attacks. It also showed the sordid underbelly of the PIJ, as some 20% of their missiles either misfired or landed in Gaza.

The reaction of our government was justifiably upbeat unto ecstatic. The reaction of the PIJ was unusually muted, with the most pro forma and insincere assertions of “victory.”

Moreover, the reaction of the world was unusually tepid, as if there was a sense, even among Israel’s detractors, that Israel had conducted itself not only effectively, but also with restraint. Undoubtedly, Operation Shield and Arrow served as an important and bracing prelude to the upcoming Jerusalem Day Flag Parade.

But there has been another important prelude to the parade, and that has been the series of protests and demonstrations for and against judicial reform. These demonstrations have seen the widespread use—some would say the weaponization—of Israeli flags.

Whatever the motivation, the prevalence of thousands of flags being carried at very large public gatherings de-intensifies their presence at the Flag Parade. This parade and its use of our flag show what demonstrators have been trying to communicate: Love of country, love of Jerusalem, love of the great adventure that is the State of Israel.

The government has said that the parade will follow its traditional route, and this has evinced little or no reaction, certainly not the shock and horror of two years ago.

It is easy to forget, given the sturm und drang of judicial reform, the main reason the current government was elected with a bigger than expected mandate: The sense that we needed to assert control over our nation and our sovereignty and demonstrate this control both to Israelis of all backgrounds and to our hostile neighbors.

Voters were looking for a new sheriff in town, a renewed sense that we were actors and not just reactors. Operation Shield and Arrow showed that voters’ hopes were not misplaced.

The confident attitude surrounding the Flag Parade is part of that desire to set the record straight as to whose city Jerusalem is and whose country this is, as well as to show who is in charge here.

Hamas might very well make some show of resistance to what promises to be a spirited and joyful Flag Parade. But they are astute enough to see that the Israel of today is not the same as the Israel of 2021.

We live in a region that has a profound appreciation and respect for power. The projection of our power, coupled with excruciating efforts at restraint, conveys an unmistakable message of strength and determination.

Ironically, the goal of peace will be that much more attainable when that consistent posture of strength and determination is crystal clear.

Happy Jerusalem Day!

Douglas Altabef is the chairman of the board of Im Tirtzu, Israel’s largest grassroots Zionist organization, and a director of B’yadenu and the Israel Independence Fund.

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