Yair Lapid at Damascus Gate
Yair Lapid at Damascus GateArie Leib Abrams/Flash90

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid has condemned the Flag March planned to go ahead on Wednesday afternoon despite police refusal to authorize the designated route, calling the organizers irresponsible and singling out Religious Zionism MK Itamar Ben Gvir for his "delinquency" in refusing to abide by a ruling of the Prime Minister barring him from approaching Damascus Gate.

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, Lapid said that, "Holding a Flag March today is incredibly irresponsible. These people are extremists who want to create provocations that will lead to violence. They want to set Jerusalem ablaze but we won't let them; we won't give in to their politicking and we won't let them burn the city down. Our security forces are already stretched to their limit and they are just making things that much harder."

Lapid also decried the damage to Israel's international standing that he said would result if the Flag March went ahead as planned. "On the national and international stage, they are causing immense damage. They are making the situation appear to be one of one group of extremists against another, rather than the state acting against rioters."

Referring directly to MK Ben Gvir, Lapid said, "I don't know if it will actually cause violence if Ben Gvir goes to Damascus Gate, but what I do know is that he feeds on violence and destruction. He isn't right-wing and he's not a nationalist - he's just a delinquent, a criminal, and that's what he has been his entire life."

Lapid also stressed that the latest outbreak of violence on the Temple Mount has nothing to do with any alleged change to the status quo.

"We are maintaining and will continue to maintain the status quo on the Temple Mount, as we will continue with the policies we have pursued in previous years," he said. "Normally, there are two festivals per year when Jews go up to the Temple Mount, and we have reduced this to just one. There is no ban on Jews going up to the Mount, and there is no need for such a ban. It's true that more Jews have been going up lately, but there is nothing wrong with that, and it does not in any way constitute an alteration of the status quo."

The Foreign Minister added that over the past few days, both Israel and the United States have been investing a great deal of effort to calm the waters, adding that the State Department will be sending two representatives, Hady Amr and Yael Lempert, to the region next week, to further these efforts.

The Israeli government has been particularly irked by Jordanian criticism of its policies on the Temple Mount, but according to a senior official, "beneath the surface," the Jordanians realize that they have blown things up out of proportion.

"The Jordanians are playing a double game," he said. "On the one hand, they hastened to condemn Israel, but then they hurried to reassure us that this condemnation was only for the purpose of calming people down within Jordan."

The official added that despite appearances to the contrary, the Palestinian Authority is also not interested in seeing the situation escalate. "Senior PA officials are still making all kinds of announcements and statements in order to score points against Israel on the Arab and Palestinian streets, but they want to control the flames and not see the situation entirely destabilized," he said.