Analysis: A powder keg left unguarded

The fuss about the Mugrabi Gate excavation kicked up by Arab leaders is merely politics and propaganda.

Temple mount work 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
Temple mount work 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
There seems little question that the "salvage excavation" conducted around the Mughrabi Gate near the Temple Mount is being carried out professionally by the Israel Antiquities Authority. The fuss kicked up by Arab leaders in Israel and abroad is merely politics and propaganda, as usual. Almost 40 years have passed since the Knesset decided to extend Israeli sovereignty over the eastern side of the capital, and the Arabs are no closer to recognizing our provenance. Once again, no surprise. What we should perhaps question is the long-term planning and decision process behind Israel's actions in that combustible area. Apparently, the IAA hasn't complied with all the planning requirements pertaining to the construction of a new bridge to the Temple Mount. The Right, which for years has criticized the police and the government for not requiring that Palestinians enforce basic planning laws for Temple Mount construction, seems incapable of ensuring that Israeli organizations working there do the same. The haphazard way Israeli authorities conduct themselves around the Temple Mount, the Old City, and east Jerusalem is a bureaucratic tangle and a scandal - not only because the area is a powder keg. If we revere the site of our Temple, to which Jews have prayed for 2,000 years, why isn't there a central government department responsible for coordinating Temple Mount policy and development? Who is in charge of building next to the Temple Mount - is it the East Jerusalem Development Company, or the Jewish Quarter Development Company, or the Western Wall Heritage Foundation? And what role do the Jerusalem Municipality and the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs play? Then there's the Jerusalem Development Authority, the Israel Antiquities Authority, local and national planning authorities - not to mention a whole list of private organizations controlling millions of dollars of donors' money. Some of these groups are toothless, others have considerable influence but don't wield it, and still others take the law into their own hands. Whether or not the latest developments around the Temple Mount cause another major outbreak of violence, as did the 1996 opening of the Western Wall tunnels and former prime minister Ariel Sharon's visit to the site in 2000, shouldn't somebody high up be making sure that Israel doesn't give the Palestinians any more excuses for terror attacks? Legitimate construction doesn't justify violence, but if the government were at least aware of what's going on up there, it could prepare for any repercussions. This isn't only a matter of our relationship with the Palestinians. The remnants of the Jewish people's ancient heritage are being redecorated and relabeled by various groups with no clear mandate, acting according to the narrow partisan agendas. Sovereignty over the nation's heart is being lost, and not only to the Palestinians.