Wakf approves Ottoman memorial near Temple Mount

Jerusalem Municipality: We have received no such proposal.

temple mount 224.88 (photo credit: Areil Jerozolimski [file])
temple mount 224.88
(photo credit: Areil Jerozolimski [file])
A Turkish government proposal to erect a memorial near the eastern wall of Jerusalem's Temple Mount to honor soldiers who died fighting for the Ottoman Empire has the backing of Islamic officials who oversee the ancient compound, Palestinian officials said Monday. The plan, which would see the memorial's construction near a Muslim cemetery close to the Golden Gate, has the approval of Wakf officials who administer the Jerusalem holy site, but has not been formally submitted to Israeli officials for approval. "This plan was approved by the Wakf," said Palestinian Minister for Jerusalem Affairs Adnan Husseini, referring to the Islamic Trust that administers the Temple Mount. Husseini, a former Wakf director, added that there were "some difficulties" with advancing the project, which was first approved two years ago, citing Israeli opposition to the plan. The intended memorial, which would be located several meters away from the Temple Mount on a 120-square meter plot, would be about three meters high and would be adorned by a Turkish flag. The Jerusalem Municipality said Monday in a statement that no official request had been submitted to the city on the issue, but that if such a request were presented it would be considered and dealt with in accordance with the law. The proposal is opposed by rightist city councilmen, but would more likely be authorized if it receives the backing of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, due to the diplomatic sensitivities involved. The Prime Minister's Office said Monday that it was "unaware" of such a proposal. Jerusalem city councilor Yair Gabbai (National Religious Party) has asked the city's legal adviser for a legal opinion on the planned memorial, noting that by law all construction is forbidden within 70 meters of the Temple Mount walls. According to decades-old regulations in place at the Temple Mount, Israel maintains overall security control at the site, while the Wakf, or the Islamic Trust, is charged with day-to-day administration of the compound. The Ottoman Empire ruled Jerusalem for 400 years between 1517 and 1917, when the British army led by General Allenby captured the city during World War I. The proposed monument is a delicate issue because Turkey - which has repeatedly played the role of mediator between the Jewish state and its Muslim neighbors - is Israel's closest ally in the Islamic world. Earlier this year, Turkey served as a mediator between Israel and Islamic officials over a controversial Israeli dig outside the Temple Mount compound which triggered low-level Arab violence throughout the region.