Muslims in uproar over Temple Mount bridge for non-Muslims

Wednesday, December 14, 2011 |  Ryan Jones

The Muslim world this week clearly demonstrated the extremist nature of its conflict with Israel by working itself into a frenzy over an Israeli decision to either repair or replace a bridge to Jerusalem's Temple Mount that wasn't even used by Muslims.

While Muslims have several other Temple Mount entrances at their disposal, the Rambam Bridge, also known as the Mughrabi Bridge, adjacent to the Western Wall Plaza was the only entrance to the holy site for Jews and tourists.

A stone bridge built centuries ago allowed access to the Temple Mount until a 2004 snowstorm caused it to collapse. Israel replaced the stone bridge with a wooden structure that Jerusalem engineers recently condemned as unsafe.

What should have been a simple municipal project became an international incident when Jordan's King Abdullah II, whom Israel permits to remain custodian of Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem, warned Israel to keep its hands off the bridge...the temporary wooden bridge that Israel built to replace the original stone structure.

Yes, the situation is that ridiculous.

Taking their cue from Abdullah, Muslims across the region accused Israel of waging a holy war against Islam. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) asserted that Israel's plans for the bridge "constitute a war crime according to international humanitarian law."

Fixing an old bridge, or replacing it with a safer bridge is now a war crime, if Israel's antagonists are to be believed.

Ah, but the Muslims appear to be playing a clever game. Long has the Islamic Waqf that oversees the Temple Mount desired to remove the stain of Jews and Christians from what they consider to be Islam's third holiest site (never mind that the Temple Mount is the holiest site anywhere for Jews).

For decades already, Jews and Christians have been forbidden to pray atop the Temple Mount or to bring a Bible on the premises. With the current bridge deemed unsafe, the Muslims see an opportunity to push Jews and Christians out altogether.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat has ordered that the current wooden bridge be closed indefinitely as it presents a public hazard. The bridge was temporarily reopened on Wednesday under heavy political pressure, but that may not last.

But, unlike the Muslims, Barkat doesn't want the Temple Mount off-limits to Jews and Christians. Quite the opposite. But he wants the current wooden bridge replaced with a more permanent structure, and Barkat attacked the Netanyahu government over its inability to face down Muslim threats and do what needs to be done.

"The government's helplessness in dealing with this hazardous and dilapidated nuisance at the heart of the Western Wall and entrance to Temple Mount is regrettable," Barkat said in a statement.

Indeed, the government appears to have surrendered to Muslim insistence that Israel has no right to touch the Temple Mount, a position that will only make future negotiations over the holy site more difficult for Israel. And the Muslims are certainly aware of this. They know that by keeping up the pressure and the threat of a regional explosion (again, over a simple bridge), that Israel's claims to the Temple Mount will be further diminished and Muslims worshippers will no longer have to deal with those pesky Jews and Christians in their midst.

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