The fury and tumult that are whirling around the construction of the new bridge to the Mughrabi gate continue unabated:
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon expressed concern about the matter to Olmert, in the course of a phone call designed to encourage support for the Palestinian unity government.
The US has called for "clarifications."
The Egyptian parliament met in special session to discuss the issue. Declared Mohamed el-Katatny, who is with Mubarak’s National Democratic Party: "That cursed Israel is trying to destroy al-Aqsa mosque… Nothing will work with Israel except for a nuclear bomb that wipes it out of existence." Other members of the party called for revoking Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel. Said one, "The war with Israel is still ongoing whether we like it or not." While another protested, "What this [Israeli] gang is doing makes me demand that we trample over all the agreements we signed."
Here in Israel, Arab MK Wasal Taha (Balad) expressed criticism of Israel as well, saying, "East Jerusalem is occupied. Israel is once again asserting its authority to do whatever it wishes in the occupied territories."
And, it seems to me, there you have it: It’s not about the Al-Aksa Mosque, it’s about Arab claims to east Jerusalem, which render Israeli decisions in the area unacceptable to them.
There are charges that the Olmert government, in proceeding with this, was arrogant and did not give courtesy to the Arab population of east Jerusalem by consulting or informing them. Israeli MK Taleb A-Sanaa (United Arab List) was giving voice to this when he stated, "the greatest provocateur currently is the government, which knows what a sensitive issue this is, yet is acting without any consideration for the Arab sector."
This, reportedly, is what Jerusalem Mayor Lupolianski was attempting to address with the adjusted process announced yesterday, which will make re-evaluated plans transparent and give people the time to register objections. Will it have an ameliorative effect? That remains to be seen, but certainly is not apparent as of yet. Lupolianski is permitting the salvage dig (about which more below) to proceed, but delaying the final construction stage to allow time for the re-evaluation and formal dissent; thus protests about the salvage dig continue. The virulence of the anger, the intense hatred in some quarters, appear far too great to be easily eliminated.
As I write, the construction company that had secured the permission to build the bridge — in line with what Lupolianski has announced — is withdrawing its plans and will re-draw its proposal. Something must be built, as there is no safe access now. The company indicates that it may design an alternative to the bridge as it had been proposed, or it may re-submit a redesigned request to build the bridge, going through procedures as outlined. There are two ways to read this. Either this represents a most unfortunate caving to the Arab furor, or it represents an attempt to make the process so solid that there can ultimately be no valid objection whatsoever, even on technical grounds. Time will tell.
For me all of this goes to the heart of the issue of how we conduct ourselves here and how we, as Jews, perceive our entitlement to the land.
Some courtesy to a segment of Jerusalem’s population — a segment that particularly values its honor — is all well and good. But at no time should we give the impression that we need Arab permission to proceed. I frankly wonder about what’s going to happen during the process for raising formal objections: Either the objections will be considered and then disregarded, which will promote more anger, or we will be in the position of changing our plans because of the objections, which would be disastrous. I see no good coming from this.
I wrote the other day about our acquisition of the Temple Mount in 1967 and the fact that Moshe Dayan, in an effort to be gracious and conciliatory, then turned around and gave the Islamic Wakf day-to-day control of the Mount. It didn’t result in warm feelings between us and the Arab Muslims. Quite the contrary, it gave them the impression that we were weak (and, I might add, didn’t care terribly about our holy places), and gave them the hope that more might be acquired over time. Too much conciliatory effort now will further weaken our claims.
I note here a comment made by Aaron Lerner of IMRA: That our government has not (as would be proper and expected) called in the ambassadors from Jordan and Egypt to register complaints to those governments about the incitement on this issue.
Background for the record:
The Palestinian Arabs never "had" east Jerusalem. It is not, and never was, theirs. After the War of Independence, Israel was in control of west Jerusalem, and Jordan in control of east Jerusalem. In east Jerusalem are the places most sacred to Judaism, yet Jordan declared the area Judenrein and proceeded (without international objection) to desecrate cemeteries and destroy synagogues. It was during this 19 year period of Jordanian control that east Jerusalem and its environs became "Arab" — by default, not by long-standing heritage. Israel acquired east Jerusalem during a defensive war in 1967, and annexed it in 1980. The Jerusalem Law, within the Basic Law of Israel, declares that Jerusalem is the "eternal and indivisible capital" of Israel.
The Al Aksa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock (not a mosque) were constructed on the Mount some 1,500 years after Jerusalem had first been made a Jewish capital in David’s time. While archeological evidence for the existence of the Jewish Temples on the Mount is solid, Palestinian Muslims attempt today to claim that there were never Temples on the Mount and that this area is exclusively Muslim historically. They even say that the Kotel is not sacred to Jews, but is the place where Muhammad tied his horse. (??) One commentator has observed that Arab objections to Israeli excavations are based on fears that these excavations will produce further evidence of long-standing Jewish presence in the area.
The attempt to totally eradicate the Jewish connection is perhaps the surest proof that there is no good will on the Arab side, no intention of sharing — only a desire to push us out totally.
As to the salvage excavations. This is law here — an indication of precisely how careful the State of Israel is with regard to archeological matters. Before construction is done, exploratory excavation is required to discover what archeological artifacts or ruins may be in the ground where building is anticipated. Sometimes artifacts are found that can be lifted and made safe before construction begins. But sometimes more extensive ruins are discovered. And to complicate matters with regard to the bridge to Mughrabi, that is what has now occurred. Excavations have gone down three meters and have hit massive walls that Jerusalem’s chief archeologist Yuval Baruch says are likely from the early Islamic Umayyad period (from the 8th century CE). An adjacent archeological park now contains the only uncovered ruins of Umayyad palaces built for the Caliphate.
Says Baruch, "the most interesting find is…evidence which suggests that right under the Umayyad ruins are Byzantine ruins (135-638), and under these, we believe there are Herodian roads and other ruins from the Second Temple period.
"The main excavations of the Umayyad and Byzantine ruins at the Mugrabi area will begin in a couple of days, and if we are patient enough, in five or six months time w
e could find Second Temple period ruins.
"We have uncovered pieces of Jerusalem’s history, but we are unsatisfied with the amount of archeological results in Jerusalem. We need to continue with our work so we can find out more of the history of these buildings which gives us more information."
Apparently, the work truly must continue, for now that ruins have been exposed, they would endure damage if left as is without proper reclamation. What also seems clear is that pillars for the bridge that were going to be put in that location would have to go elsewhere. Precisely what changes there will be in the path of the bridge — if there is to be a bridge — will become clear as the full, adjusted, plans are released by the municipality.
This posting can be found at: https://arlenefromisrael.info/current-postings/2007/2/13/posted-february-13-2007.html