Olmert regrets 'Arab incitement' over Jerusalem works
Prime minister says Mugrabi Gate situated outside Temple Mount in area that is 'absolutely under full Israeli sovereignty'; Salah and Mashaal won't dictate to us where to work, he adds. Minister Lieberman says completion of the works 'important for Israel'
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday said he regretted the "incitement for violence" by some Arab Israeli leader over renovation works on a gate located near the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
"It is a shame there are officials in the international and the Arab Israeli communities, mainly in the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, who are encouraging incitement and violence," Olmert told ministers.
Referring to the head of the Islamic Movement's northern branch and the Hamas politburo chief, Olmert warned that "if Raad Salah and Khaled Mashaal have a problem with construction works carried out 20 meters away from the Western Wall, tomorrow they will tell us what to do at the Jaffa Gate and in two days what to do at the Mamila neighborhood."
"The State should say that this is a territory and sovereignty and that these two cannot be allowed to run the sovereign life," the prime minister added.
Dig area near al-Aqsa Mosque (Photo: Yoav Galai)
Renovation works on the Mugrabi Gate in Old City Jerusalem that leads to the Temple Mount have angered Muslims some of whom claim digs in the area could affect the al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam's third holiest shrine.
Muslim worshipers and police clashed on the Temple Mount soon after the end of Friday prayers when rioters, angered by Israel's decision to go ahead with the works, threw stones at policemen.
Olmert defended Israel's right to commission the renovations, saying the Gate is situated outside the Temple Mount in a territory that is "absolutely under full Israeli sovereignty."
Lieberman warns against giving in"There is no religious issue here. A message about that has been sent to all the relevant officials in Israel and abroad," Olmert said. He added that a team of experts had been consulted before the renovations were sanctions.
Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the completion of the works is important for Israel, warning that bowing to Muslim pressure could harm the Jewish State's sovereignty.
"For the sake of wisdom we need to complete works on the Mugrabi Gate, otherwise this will constitute a harmful blow to Israeli sovereignty and to our ability to grant freedom of faith to ourselves and to others," said the hawkish minister.