Too Late to Stop Illegal Arab Construction on Har HaBayis

YERUSHALAYIM -
View of of the Har Habayis as seen from the Migdal Dovid Museum. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
View of of the Har HaBayis as seen from the Migdal Dovid Museum. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Palestinians in eastern Yerushalayim in recent days completed a clandestine project on Har HaBayis, building 70 lavatories and 10 showers without authorization from the Yerushalayim municipality or the Antiquities Authority.

In addition, the Wakf has made preparations for building a new gate that will lead directly from within the Muslim Quarter to Har HaBayis.

On Wednesday, two years after the work started, about which all the officialdom of Yerushalayim knew and ignored completely, despite warnings from AA officials and Jewish organizations, a restraining order was requested to halt the construction activities.

However, since the construction has already been completed, the only relevant legal action would involve demolition, which would entail fierce controversy.

Political sources in Yerushalayim have hinted that the government did not act until now because it sought to avoid a confrontation with the Jordanians and the Palestinian Authority.

The Israeli police did not intervene in the construction during the entire two-year period, on the grounds that it is not its responsibility. On the other hand, the mayor’s office and the prime minister’s office both say that is the responsibility of the police, and not theirs.

The new facilities are set to go into operation as early as next week, in time for the large crowds arriving during Ramadan.

Either way, the Wakf, which has charge of operations on Har HaBayis, does as it pleases, even as there is no doubt about the damage caused to important and extensive evidence there supporting the Jewish claim to the site from Bayis Rishon and Bayis Sheini.

Senior archeologist Dr. Gabi Barkai, a member of the Committee to Prevent the Destruction of Antiquities on Har HaBayis, said on Wednesday that it will not be enough to demolish what the Wakf built.

“We are talking about a greater danger than the discharge of waste water into the Old City. There is a concern that the waste water will penetrate into the Kosel tunnels. We are talking about work that has caused some of the most serious damage ever seen in the most important of all Jewish archeological sites, where the Beis Hamikdash stood. They have committed a crime of the first order.”

It is worth noting that the State Comptroller Yosef Shapira had already reported that building was being carried out without permits, and in flagrant violation of a law forbidding the use of machinery at the site. But no one in the government enforced the law.

On Tuesday, Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) sent an urgent letter to the prime minister and other ministers urging them to order the Wakf to take down everything they have built without any legal permit. As a result, he said, the matter was discussed and the municipality issued a restraining order to stop the work.

Ariel said he regretted that the prime minister did not take action sooner. But better late than never.