Bennett cancels visit to Palestinian city amid outcry
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has cancelled a visit to the Palestinian-Israeli city of Umm al-Fahm after local groups threatened to protest against him.
The right-wing Israeli leader had originally been due to visit Umm al-Fahm to promote Covid vaccination services.
Umm al-Fahm lies within Israel’s 1948 borders and has a population of roughly 56,000 people, almost entirely Palestinian citizens of Israel.
Palestinian-Israelis, who make up over 20% of Israel’s population, are widely discriminated against and have one of the lowest rates of vaccinations against coronavirus in Israeli society.
However, Bennett’s planned visit coincided with the twenty-first anniversary of the killing of 13 Palestinian-Israelis by Israeli police during protests at the beginning of the Second Intifada in 2000.
The protests – and the ensuing killing of protesters by police - are known within the Palestinian community in Israel as the “Gift to Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa” because they took place after former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made a provocative visit to Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque, triggering the Second Intifada.
Citizens of Umm al-Fahm have planned commemorations for the day and a group called the Popular Committee called for protests if Bennett goes ahead with his planned visit to the town.
It issued a statement entitled “No welcome to the war criminals”. Bennett has previously boasted of “killing lots of Arabs in my life”.
He heads the right-wing Yamina party which governs in coalition with several parties including Mansour Abbas’s United Arab List (UAL).
The UAL, also known as Ra’am said in a statement that it had requested that Bennett had postponed his visit at its request, due to the commemorations.
However, the Jerusalem Post quoted Bennett’s spokesperson Matan Sidi as saying: "The visit was cancelled due to expected demonstrations and security arrangements… this is the reason, and this alone."