Washington, March 29 — Israeli security authorities are on alert as protesters plan marches Friday (March 29) around border points -- but it’s unclear how much support the demonstrations will garner.
Dubbed the “Global March to Jerusalem,” organizers are planning rallies worldwide, with the bulk of the demonstrators moving on the borders separating Israel and the Palestinian Authority, but also in major cities around the world, some in front of Israeli embassies.
“The biggest mystery will be how many demonstrators actually show up to the so-called Global March to Jerusalem,”said an Israeli government official. “It’s going to be between 12,500 and 100,000 — probably closer to 12 and a half.”
Such estimates are partly a result of the current lack of international focus on Israeli-Palestinian issues and relative prosperity in the Palestinian areas.
“The Palestinians at the moment are in no mood for this kind of activity,” said Col. (res.) Moshe Elad, a former Israeli chief liaison officer with the Palestinians. “First of all, there is great pressure by the Hamas in the West Bank and the leadership and the security services are very busy maintaining this status quo and quiet and making sure that Hamas does not do anything that will gain them points.”
“There are two agendas here, the internal and the external,” Elad said. “Those from abroad aren’t experiencing what is happening on the ground here. They are not hearing the voices that are saying it is not the right time for this.”
The Israeli army is making preparations, placing troops in riot control training and deploying them in expected hot-spots.
“The IDF is prepared for any eventuality and will do whatever is necessary to protect Israeli borders and residents,” according to an Israeli army statement.
Meanwhile, organizers in Lebanon said they hope to gather 5,000 protesters, but have planned routes that don’t approach the border area to avoid the fatal outcome of a similar protest last May. At that time – the commemoration of the so-called Palestinian Nakba – at least 10 people died trying to illegally breach Israel’s border. Lebanese authorities have refused to give permission for a gathering south of the Litani River, according to one march organizer.
In the West Bank, organizer Said Yakin said there were to be two main marches: One at the Qalandya crossing between Ramallah and Jerusalem, the other at Rachel’s Tomb, between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Yakin said the demonstrations aimed to be peaceful, but he wouldn’t say whether they’d attempt to breach Israel’s military checkpoints. “We are against violence,” Yakin said.
Mass protests already have taken place as far away as Morocco, where tens of thousands of protestersgathered outside the Israeli embassy, burned Israeli flags and chanted “A million martyrs are going to Jerusalem.” The violent protests required the rescue of an Israeli diplomat from Rabat.
Israel, meanwhile, has warned the various neighboring governments as well as to Hamas in Gaza, to keep protesters away from Israel’s borders.