Earlier today Hamas issued a warning that Israel's closure of the Mugrabi Bridge to the Temple Mount is a "declaration of religious war on Muslim Holy Sites." Lest you think this is propaganda from a single extremist terrorist group, it follows an earlier statement by Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat who said Israel's plan to replace the current bridge “shows their determination to Judaize Jerusalem and to take over the city’s Muslim holy places."
These statements are false and hypocritical, and those making them know that's the case. They're intended to inflame the Muslim world and put pressure on Israel. We've talked about this gate several times on our program, most recently this past weekend. Here are the facts for those who don't know the full story.
The Mugrabi Gate is the only gateway unto the Temple Mount that is open to non-Muslims, and it's located next to the Western Wall plaza. In 2004 the ramp up to the gate partially collapsed after a heavy winter rain. Israel constructed a temporary wooden bridge to the site that sits on metal scaffolding. (See the picture above from bibleplaces.com, which provides an excellent visual of the structure!) The bridge was only intended to provide temporary access until a more permanent replacement was designed and built.
In 2007 Israel tried to replace the temporary bridge with a more permanent replacement, but work was halted when charges were made that Israel was damaging the Muslim holy sites. (Note in the picture that the bridge is outside the Western Wall and doesn't get close to any of the Muslim Holy sites!) Israel halted work while the UN investigated. They concluded the charges were false, but asked Israel to once again postpone work on the new bridge. Israel agreed, and the temporary structure remained in use for another four years.
The problem now is that Jerusalem's city engineer has declared the current temporary structure to be unsafe and in danger of collapse. Israel's most recent decision to close the current bridge and replace it with a more permanent structure centers on safety. Like any responsible government, their primary concern is that a bridge used by thousands of tourists every week has been shown to be structurally unsound. Unfortunately, the Palestinian leadership appears to care more about scoring political points than they are about the safety of those forced to use a bridge that is structurally unsound. But one can be sure that when the bridge finally does collapse, they will be quick to blame the Jews!
This is another example of the appalling lack of leadership that characterizes both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. My advice to both groups is simple: Stop acting like demagogues and start acting like responsible leaders. The bridge is unsafe and needs to be repaired, and it is outside the Temple Mount area. Get over the fact that Israel is the one fixing it!