Press Release
Contact Information: Hussein Ibish
February 6, 2007 - 1:00am

ATFP views with the utmost gravity construction that commenced yesterday on the Mughrabi Gate
bridge leading up to the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem. Israel plans to
construct a new and massively-expanded access bridge to the compound to replace the wooden
structure that had been built in 2005 after the exisitng earthwork ramp had collapsed. Given
the extremely heightened religious sensitivities regarding the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount
compound as well as the unresolved political status of Jerusalem, any construction in this area
should be strictly limited to restoring the status quo ante. Yesterday, the U.S. State
Department has urged that great care be exercised "when deciding whether and how to engage in
any activity near sensitive religious sites." Jordan's King Abdullah II also said yesterday
that the excavations are "a blatant violation that is not acceptable under any pretext." The
king said the activity "will only create an atmosphere that will not at all help in the success
of efforts being undertaken to restore the peace process."

ATFP believes that building the expanded access bridge is illegal, dangerous and irresponsible
on a number of levels:

1. According to letters written by the Inspector General of the Jerusalem Municipality and in
the possession of Ir Amim, a non-partisan Israeli organization dedicated to an equitable
sharing of Jerusalem between Israelis and Palestinians, it is illegal to grant a building
permit in this area without first undertaking a protracted process to obtain a new zoning plan
for the area. Such a process would include making the plans subject to public review. No such
process has been undertaken and no new zoning plan for the area has been approved.

2. The plan is unsound from an archeological standpoint, prompting 18 leading Israeli
archeologists in March 2006 to notify Israeli authorities of their objection to the plan. They
warned that the plan, as presently envisioned, will cause grave damage to one of the most
important archeological sites in Israel and the world. They argued that a plan of this
importance and magnitude should be subject to public review, including, and especially, review
by objective and politically disinterested archeological experts.

3. Of all of the gates providing access to the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, the Mugrabi Gate
is the most sensitive. While the keys of the other gates remain in the hands of the Waqf, the
Islamic administrative authority responsible for the Haram al-Sharif which also control access
to the Temple Mount/Haram compound, since 1967 the direct control over the Mugrabi Gate has
remained with the Israeli authorities. It is through the Mugrabi Gate that, contrary to police
orders, Jewish extremist organizations continue to attempt to illegally access the area.

4. The design of the new bridge differs considerably from both the pre-collapse earthen ramp
and the temporary wooden structure. The original (collapsed) ramp was approximately 170 feet
long, extending from the base of the Mount's containing wall in the Western Wall plaza to the
Mugrabi Gate. The new (planned) bridge will be approximately 450 feet long and will extend from
the Southern Wall excavations near the Dung Gate. All this goes well beyond a return to the
status quo that existed between 1967 and 2004.

5. Since the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967, all Israeli governments have adhered
to the political/religious status quo on the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount. The construction of
a radically expanded bridge is a major deviation from this status quo and risks inflaming the
passions of over 1 billion Muslims and 1/4 of a billion Arabs.

ATFP acknowledges the need to renew customary access for Israelis to the Mugrabi Gate in the
manner customary since 1967. However, engaging in radical changes to the status quo outside of
the framework of understandings with the Islamic Waqf authorities would enhance access to the
Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount by Israel's most extremist national/religious elements.

Commenting on the construction, ATFP president Dr. Ziad Asali said that ?an extremely
provocative measure of this nature hits at the core of serious political attempts at resolution
and strengthens the argument and appeal of those seeking to transform the conflict from a
national one to a worldwide religious one with all the attendant dangers to domestic, regional
and global stability.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017