Bennett defends decision to stop Ben-Gvir flag march

PM Bennett said that he will not endanger IDF and police for the sake of Ben Gvir's and Smotrich's political provocation.

Otzma Yehudit leader MK Itamar Ben-Gvir rallies outside Damascus Gate, Old City, Jerusalem, June 10, 2021.  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Otzma Yehudit leader MK Itamar Ben-Gvir rallies outside Damascus Gate, Old City, Jerusalem, June 10, 2021.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in radio interviews on Wednesday that he had no choice but to prevent Religious Zionist Party MK Itamar Ben-Gvir from marching near Jerusalem's Damascus Gate for security reasons.

"We are handling a tense situation with determination and sensitivity," he told KAN Radio. "For the political provocation of Ben-Gvir or [MK Bezalel] Smotrich, I won't endanger IDF soldiers and police. I won't let them be a game in the hands of irresponsible politicians."

He said Ben-Gvir opening an office at Damascus was "delusional."

Asked if they are trying to inflame tensions to bring down his government, he said he won't get into what is in their heart.

Bennett said the closure of the Temple Mount to Jews during the final 10 days of Ramadan was a tradition that also happened when Benjamin Netanyahu was prime minister. 

Itamar Ben-Gvir waves a flag at the Jerusalem Flag March on June 15 (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)Itamar Ben-Gvir waves a flag at the Jerusalem Flag March on June 15 (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

He rejected charges that the Shura Council of the Ra'am (United Arab List) was impacting security decisions. He said he was aware that any coalition party could bring down his government but it would not impact his moves on security.

"The public will judge anyone who wants to return Israel to political chaos," Bennett said.

Bennett praised the courage of Ra'am leader Mansour Abbas, who he said had made historic decisions. 

By contrast, Bennett blasted former coalition chairwoman Idit Silman for protesting Health Minister Nitzan Horovitz's decision that was backed by the Supreme Court to allow leavened products to be brought into public hospitals. He said Silman was a victim of inhumane political pressure and he was not angry at her for defecting to the opposition.

"I think Idit understands the need to return to a situation where a state budget cannot be passed and basic public needs cannot be met," Bennett said.  

In an interview with Army Radio that was broadcast at the same time, he accused opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu of spreading "fake news and lies" to make him look bad on security issues.

Bennett told Army Radio that he was not afraid of elections personally but that holding elections now would be "a disaster."