A last minute order from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has halted the demolition of the wooden bridge from the Mugrahbi Gate on the Temple Mount to the Western Wall Plaza, due to “warnings” from Cairo and Amman of regional backlash.
The demoltion of the bridge was to begin after Shabbat on Saturday, and last for 72 hours, as part of a project to rejuvenate the site, erect a more permanent structure, and restore full use of the women’s section adjacent to the Western Wall. A large deployment of security forces was to be associated with the project, both in Jerusalem and in Judea and Samaria.
In 2004, a storm caused the partial collapse of the Mughrabi Ramp, at which point a temporary bridge was erected to enable worshippers and tourists to gain access to the Temple Mount. However, Jerusalem engineer Shlomo Eshkol deemed the bridge structurally unsound and a fire hazard in October, and gave the municipality 30 days to demolish it or face fines.
The postponement comes as Egypt conducts its first elections since the overthrow of former President Hosni Mubarak. On Thursday, 85 year-old spiritual chief of the Muslim Brotherhood Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, whose party is poised to make a major sweep in Egypt’s elections, contacted Jordan’s King Abdullah to ask the ruler to put pressure on Israel to cancel the project. According to Qaradawi, the project’s aim is to ease access by security forces and Jewish settlers to the Al-Aqsa mosque.
Qaradawi, though a proponent of tolerance for non-Muslims, has stated that pregnant Israeli women are legitimate targets of jihad, publicly prayed that the next genocide against the Jews would take place at the hands of “the believers”, and refuted Jewish history on the Temple Mount.
Abdullah also told Netanyahu that any move associated with the Temple Mount would likely lead to protests throughout Jordan and possibly violence in Judea and Samaria. In 2007, work on the ramp led to international condemnation and protests throughout the Arab world, including protests in Jordan and an outcry for a third intifada.
The prime minister will convene a meeting of officials to determine how to proceed.