Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski suspended late Sunday night construction of a pavement at the Mugrabi Gate in a bid to douse Muslim anger at renovation work near the Temple Mount.
Muslim leaders fear the deployment of heavy machinery near the Mount could damage the foundations of the al-Aqsa Mosque, with some saying the renovation work is an act of provocation by Israel. Israel has rejected these claims.
Following consultations with Attorney General Menachem Mazuz and Muslim and Jewish leaders, Lupolianski decided to postpone the renovation work until zoning authorities complete drafting plans for the Mugrabi Gate area.
Jerusalem residents, Arabs and Jews alike, will be given sufficient time to review the zoning plans and to submit letters of opposition to the renovations.
At the center of the dispute are plans to reconstruct an existing bridge that leads pedestrians to the Mugrabi Gate in the Old City.
Suspension could last monthsThe Antiquities Authority will be allowed to proceed with archeological excavations in the area, while public hearings on the matter are being delivered at City Hall.
The decision to commission a zoning plan contravenes a decision by the Jerusalem Municipality Legal Counsel which ruled that the replacement of the bridge requires a routine construction permit. Zoning plans are reserved to the construction of new structures.
Lupoliansky said he hoped for an "ease in tensions in Jerusalem. I believe that cooperation in Jerusalem can bring about coexistence, without mutual disregard."
Lupoliansky aides said that Sunday's decision would effectively relay the construction works to the Municipality's planning and construction division, allowing for more transparency.
"The Mayor's wish is that all works are conducted in full transparency, devoid of underhanded opportunism, and to prove to the wider public that there are no attempts by the municipality to annex lands from the Temple Mount," aides said.
The works could be suspended for months.
Police squashed attempts by Muslim youths to ignite mass riots in protest at the works soon after Friday prayers broke off. Stones and Molotov cocktails were hurled at policemen who fired stun grenades to disperse the rioters.