The government on Sunday decided to go ahead with renovation works on a gate leading to the Temple Mount despite protests by Muslims who say the works threaten the al-Aqsa Mosque.
Defense Minister Amir Peretz, Education Minister Yuli Tamir and minister-without-portfolio Raleb Majadele abstained in a vote on the issue.
Renovation works at the Mugrabi Gate in in Jerusalem's Old City touched off protests by Muslims in Israel who claim the works are damaging to the foundations of the al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam's third holiest site.
Muslim rioters and police clashed on Friday after angry Muslims hurled stones at policemen securing Friday prayers.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Sunday that remarks made by Arab community leaders during a protest against the works in Nazareth on Friday amount to incitement for violence, adding the remarks are regrettable.
Police Chief Moshe Karadi decided to probe whether remarks made by the head of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Sheikh Raed Salah, during the demonstration bore criminal connotations.
Dichter: No third uprising
Meanwhile, Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter ruled out the possibility that the works would spark a third Palestinian uprising
“The handful of Arabs who are rioting in protest of the construction at the Mugrabi Gate in Jerusalem due to false information are trying to drag us into a new confrontation, but there will not be a third initifada,” Dichter said Sunday on a visit to the Mugrabi Gate, where a bridge is being renovated.
Dichter blamed the Arab Israeli leadership, which called on the international community to intervene in order to stop the controversial dig, for fueling the conflict.
Dichter (R) with Jerusalem Police chief Franko
“No damage is being caused to the Temple Mount, but some Arab Israeli leaders, including Knesset members, do not know that the Mugrabi Gate is located outside the complex,” he said after touring the Old City with Jerusalem Police Chief Ilan Franco.
The construction works at the site resumed Monday morning after a stormy weekend in which several disturbances were reported in east Jerusalem.
“The Mugrabi Gate was destroyed in a flood and was rebuilt haphazardly - it cannot remain in this condition,” Dichter said.
The Temple Mount complex has been closed off to Jews and tourists since last Tuesday; only Arabs worshipers over the age of 45 who carry Israeli identity cards are allowed entry.