by Gil Ronen
(IsraelNN.com) Jordanian pressure is preventing the completion of a walkway to the Temple Mount next to the Western Wall (Kotel), according to Nadav Shragai, senior researcher at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
The Islamic Historical Society has filed suit in the Jerusalem District Court, demanding a halt to the work on widening the Kotel Plaza and the renovation of the Rambam (Mughrabim) Gate entrance to the Temple Mount. The court is awaiting a reply from the Prime Minister's Office on the matter.
Islamic officials said that the walkway project is an attempt by Israel to destabilize the foundations of the mosques on the Temple Mount and to rebuild the Jewish Temple, 1940 years after it was burned down by the Romans.
Shragai told Arutz Sheva's Hebrew service that the Muslim claims are completely unfounded: "The Mughrabim Bridge is a tourists' entrance to the Temple Mount and it is in Israel's possession – not the [Muslim] Wakf's. About six years ago, in a big snowstorm, the dirt ramp collapsed and parts of it fell. That is why the wooden bridge which is there to this day was built. The entire matter of renovating the bridge has turned into a political argument that has gone on for five years."
The plan for renovating the walkway to the Rambam Gate has been approved, Shragai said, but the government is delaying its implementation. "At first they wanted the bridge to be suspended from support columns,” the veteran former journalist explained, “but environmental groups objected. In the end it was decided that the bridge would be placed on what remains of the [dirt] ramp, in order to avoid damage to houses in the Mughrabim neighborhood. This plan currently has the necessary approvals and all that is needed is a construction permit from the Kotel Heritage Fund which answers to the Prime Minister's Office. For some reason, because of pressure from the Jordanian government, the government is not granting this permit."
In the meantime, Shragai explained, the women's section of the Kotel Plaza is smaller than it should be because the wooden bridge has blocked off one-third of its area.