Israel will not change status quo in Jerusalem - Lapid says

Fake reports are spreading in the Arab world that the Israeli government is trying to destroy al-Aqsa and prevent Muslims from praying there.

 People gather around the Dome of the Rock, in the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City October 28, 2021 (photo credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD)
People gather around the Dome of the Rock, in the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City October 28, 2021
(photo credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD)

Israel will maintain the status quo on the Temple Mount, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said on Wednesday, pushing back against “fake news” spreading in the Arab world.

“We have no intention to change the status quo or prevent freedom of worship, but we will keep the order in the capital of Israel,” Lapid stated.

“Israel is the sovereign and we can be the moderate force taking the public welfare into consideration. Our goal is for Jerusalem to be calm on the holiday…We will not allow fireworks to be thrown from the mosque at Jews on the Temple Mount or anywhere,” he added.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in an interview with Kan Bet that “neighboring states need to show leadership against the lies.” 

“There is a huge amount of fake news,” Lapid said, citing a rumor spread by Palestinians that Israel trying to split the Temple Mount between Jews and Muslims using the model of the Tomb of the Patriarchs. “It's not true but very strong on social media.”

Lapid also referred to a video spread on social media that looks like a Molotov cocktail was thrown into the Al-Aksa Mosque, which is, in fact, a video that was reversed of someone throwing the explosive out of the mosque.

Head of the Yesh Atid party and Israeli foreign minister, Yair Lapid, holds a press conference in Tel Aviv on April 14, 2022. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)Head of the Yesh Atid party and Israeli foreign minister, Yair Lapid, holds a press conference in Tel Aviv on April 14, 2022. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett ordered a ban on Religious Zionist MK Itamar Ben-Gvir from entering the Damascus Gate to the Arab Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City, where he planned to establish an extra-parliamentary office, as right-wing activists planned to march with Israeli flags in the area on Wednesday.

"I have no intention to allow petty politics to endanger human lives. I won't allow Ben-Gvir's political provocation to endanger IDF soldiers and Israel Police officers," Bennett said of the far-right lawmaker.

The decision came at the recommendation of Minister for Public Security Omer Bar-Lev, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), and the police.

"The annual flag march will take place on its regular date, Jerusalem Day," Bennett promised.

The prime minister said that Israeli soldiers and police officers must "continue to focus on protecting the citizens of Israel and determinedly fighting Palestinian terror."

Lapid also warned that Israeli extremist actions are damaging to the country, calling the planned flag march “terrible irresponsibility.”

“Extremists are causing a provocation that will lead to violence,” Lapid said. “They want violence. They want to burn down Jerusalem, and we will not allow them to do that for their politics.”

Actions like the flag march hurt Israel’s ability to defend itself abroad, the foreign minister said.

“Instead of Muslim rioters against a sovereign state, it becomes extremists versus extremists,” Lapid said. “We need to restrain them under the law.”