Israeli right-wing Knesset member Itamar Ben-Gvir, head of the Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) party, vowed late Wednesday afternoon to enter the Old City through the Damascus Gate, leading an Israeli flag march, despite a ban by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett — but he was prevented from doing so by Israel Police.
“I have no intention of allowing petty politics to endanger lives. I will not allow Ben Gvir’s political provocation to endanger IDF soldiers and Israel Police officers, or to burden their already heavy task,” Bennett said in a statement earlier in the day.
The officers barricaded the route to the Damascus Gate from Jaffa Road, stopping the flag march by at least 1,000 activists, led by Ben-Gvir, at IDF Square.
“I arrived in Jerusalem with thousands of young people who came to wave the Israeli flag with pride,” Ben-Gvir said in a response posted to Twitter. “In an illegal move the police block us and refuse to show any order. Understand?
“Bennett surrendered to the Shura Council, and is now afraid to present the order he signed. This is not the security of the state, this is the security of the coalition, and at the request of Abbas and Hamas, Bennett divides Jerusalem.”
“Bennett, Go Home!” the marchers chanted, among other slogans against Bennett and the government, while Ben-Gvir scoffed at the prime minister’s claims the event would endanger the security of the state in a statement to media.
“Naftali Bennett receives instructions from Mansour Abbas and the Shura Council, which did not suit them that Jews go up to the Temple Mount, and instructed Bennett not to let Jews into the Temple Mount — so Bennett raised a white flag and closed the Temple Mount to Jews, he and Jerusalem District Commander Doron Turgeman.
“I do not understand how he agreed to release stone-throwers and Molotov cocktails, but he released them.
“I do not know of any order not to reach the Damascus Gate, they cannot prevent an incumbent Knesset member,” he said. “Capitulation and defeat is what causes the missiles,” Ben-Gvir said.
“Sheikh Ra’ed Salah (of the outlawed Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement) was allowed to walk around the Temple Mount — but the public is not allowed to approach the Nablus Gate,” he pointed out.
“The day before yesterday it was forbidden to enter the Temple Mount; yesterday it was the Western Wall. What will happen when it ends with us being thrown out of the entire State of Israel?
“The one who is abandoning the lives of the Jews is Naftali Bennett, who is abandoning the lives of the soldiers.”
Ben-Gvir reminded reporters on the scene that it was said that if he reaches the Damascus Gate, “missiles will come from Gaza.” But, he said, when he came to Jerusalem’s Shimon HaTzaddik neighborhood, “they said the same thing, and nothing happened. When I arrived at the Temple Mount, nothing happened.
“[Israeli Arab MK] Ahmad Tibi is allowed to walk around, so why can’t I?
“This is not about the security of the state,” Ben-Gvir added. “It’s about the security of the coalition.
“Today, Bennett gave Hamas a victory.”