As the structural work near the Temple Mount drew protests from around the Arab world, Israeli archeologists complained Wednesday that the government was not doing enough to protect Jewish artifacts from building work by the Muslim Waqf, which controls the Temple Mount.
"The Waqf has acted terribly, taking thousands of tons of artifacts from the First Temple, the Second Temple, as well as Muslim artifacts, and throwing them away," Dr Eilat Mazor, from the Hebrew University, told Ynetnews.
"They want to turn the whole of the Temple Mount into a mosque for Muslims only. They don't care about the artifacts or heritage on the site."
She added that there was a link between routine denials of the existence of the Jerusalem Temples by senior officials of the Palestinian Authority, and the way the Waqf was treating artifacts on the site.
"There is a total ignorance of history, and archeology. Artifacts showing ancient history are hidden," she added.
Mazar slammed the inaction of the Israeli government. "The authorities have failed to deal with this issue. The only ones paying attention are the police, and they are only interested in quiet, so they do nothing," she said.
Mazar said the recent uproar in the Muslim world over the construction work to secure the Mugrabi gate is part of a tactic of forcing the Israeli government to stay away from the site. "They have learned that the more noise the make, the more sweets they will get, like a small child," she said.
"Prayer by Muslims on the Temple Mount should continue as normal, and no one has any intentions of disrupting that. There is no connection between that and the accusations being made," she noted.
The most serious archeological damage to the Temple Mount "was done a few years ago when the Waqf excavated a huge pit for creating an approach to the underground mosque they constructed, in the so called Solomon's Stables compound," said Professor Amihai Mazar, of the Institute of Archeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.