Palestinian Authority's el-Habash nixes Western Wall changes

June 13, 2013 at 6:24 AM
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RAMALLAH, West Bank, June 13 (UPI) -- The Palestinian Authority will not allow Israel to change the entrance to the Temple Mount, Religious Affairs Minister Mahmoud el-Habash said.

Palestinians oppose a plan recently raised by Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky that calls for construction of a worship section at the Western Wall Plaza, Habash told Israeli reporters in Ramallah Thursday

"Any changes in Haram a-Sharif [Temple Mount] is unacceptable to the Palestinians and Arab side," The Jerusalem Post quoted him as saying. "It's a change of our heritage site and I believe such changes may push all of us to new conflicts and problems."

Changes to the Temple Mount must wait until a final status agreement is reached between Israel and the Palestinians, he said.

"We don't agree to any changes. It's a wakf [religious] place, and Islamic place and we have documents to prove it. You can pray how you want after the liberation of Palestine," Habash said.

Sharansky's plan is to build an additional section of the Western Wall Plaza at the southern end, equal in size and height to the north prayer area. It would be accessible as part of one unified Western Wall complex, with a single entrance, The Jerusalem Post said.

Defending his plan, which he raised last month, Sharanksy said, "The goal is that every Jew on Earth can come to the Western Wall and express his identification with the Jewish people in the way he is accustomed to doing," Haaretz reported.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu instructed Sharansky to meet with Yaakov Amidror, national security adviser, to discuss how to handle moving the Mughrabi Bridge, which accesses the Temple Mount, if his plan is accepted, The Jerusalem Post said.

The Mughrabi Bridge is the only access point for non-Muslims seeking to visit the Temple Mount.

Until 2004, access to the Temple Mount was through the Mughrabi Gate via an earthen ramp. Three years later, a wooden bridge was built to replace the ramp, which collapsed in a snowstorm. The move at the time was considered a temporary measure, but it led to rioting by Muslims in Jordan and Jerusalem.

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