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Mideast tensions shape mood of annual Celebrate Israel Parade in New York

Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York marched yesterday in the Celebrate Israel Parade, which first took place in 1964. Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York marched yesterday in the Celebrate Israel Parade, which first took place in 1964. (Associated Press)
Associated Press / June 6, 2011

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NEW YORK — Fifth Avenue was awash in the blue and white of the Israeli flag for yesterday’s Celebrate Israel Parade, the mood of which reflected rising tensions in the Mideast this year.

“We’ve always been saying, we’re ready to negotiate,’’ said Yuli Yoel Edelstein, Israel’s minister of information and diaspora and the grand marshal of this year’s march. “But the Palestinians have a unilateral approach. This is not the way you reach statehood.’’

The thousands of marchers who stepped off at 57th Street late yesterday morning included Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Democratic Representative Jerrold Nadler, and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, followed later by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Organizers say the annual parade, which started in 1964, is the largest in the world celebrating the founding of the Jewish state in 1948.

In recent months, the “Arab Spring’’ uprisings and the formation of a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas have dimmed hopes of renewed peace talks.

Behind police barricades were thousands of observers, some carried signs criticizing President Obama’s policy speech last month on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The president said Israel’s boundaries before the 1967 Mideast war should be the starting point for negotiations on any future borders.

One Fifth Avenue sidewalk was filled with two groups of protesters who have appeared each year, both critical of Israel: anti-Zionist ultra-Orthodox Jews who oppose Israel’s existence, saying only the Messiah can establish a Jewish state; and supporters of a Palestinian state who hoisted their red, black, white, and green flags.

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