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JERUSALEM: Israel’s new far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said on Sunday (Jan 8) that he instructed police to remove Palestinian flags from public spaces.

Israeli law does not outlaw Palestinian flags but police and soldiers have the right to remove them in cases where they deem there is a threat to public order.

The directive from Ben-Gvir, who heads an ultranationalist party in Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government and as minister oversees the police, seems to take a hard line in requiring their removal.

It follows the release last week of a long-serving Palestinian prisoner, convicted of kidnapping and killing an Israeli soldier in 1983, who waved a Palestinian flag while receiving a hero’s welcome in his village in northern Israel.

Ben-Gvir, in a statement, said that waving the Palestinian flag is an act in support of terrorism.

“It cannot be that lawbreakers wave terrorist flags, incite and encourage terrorism, so I ordered the removal of flags supporting terrorism from the public space and to stop the incitement against Israel,” Ben-Gvir said.

Arabs in Israel account for around a fifth of the population and most are descendants of Palestinians who remained within the newly founded state after its 1948 war of independence.

They have long debated their place in Israel’s politics, balancing their Palestinian heritage with their Israeli citizenship, with many identifying as or with the Palestinians.