The Jordan Times reports: Jordan on Monday expressed “relief” over the Israeli decision to halt a unilateral plan under which it decided to rebuild a wooden bridge at the Magharbeh Gate Pathway.
Israel’s prime minister intervened to halt renovation work on a pedestrian walkway adjacent to the most sensitive holy site in Jerusalem to avoid inflaming public opinion in the Arab world, an Israeli official said Monday, quoted by the Associated Press.
The renovation was meant to replace the wooden ramp that leads up to Al Aqsa Mosque, which is under Jordan’s custodianship as stipulated in the Jordan-Israel Peace Treaty.
However, a senior official at the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs denied as baseless a report by Israeli Haaretz newspaper on Monday that “Amman reneged on an agreement with Israel over the bridge.”
“There was no final agreement between Israel and Jordan despite three years of negotiations between Jordan and Israel and despite a preliminary understanding with Israel which it disavowed,” the official said in the statement, which was e-mailed to The Jordan Times.
In fact, the official said, the Israeli side “is the party that does not recognise a preliminary agreement between the two countries that took place on March 15, 2011 that stipulates that Israel must cooperate with the Islamic Awqaf on all matters pertaining to the rebuilding and reconstruction of the Magharbeh Gate Pathway”.
Three months later, the statement said, Jordan accepted to work for an understanding with the Israelis regarding the Magharbeh Gate Pathway at UNESCO, provided that Israel does not take any unilateral action at the site without Jordan’s approval and also on the condition that Israel cooperate with the awqaf authorities.
“But Israel is now trying to cherry-pick the articles in the agreements that serve its interest and disavow the articles that serve Jordanian interests and that preserve the Magharbeh Gate Pathway. Jordan denounces this Israeli ploy and this attempt to create confusion and ambiguity,” said the official.
The official highlighted a list of facts pertaining to the preservation of Jerusalem’s holy sites, reiterating that Jordan has coordinated all its steps with the Palestinian Authority and that “Jordan and Palestine share the same goal: to preserve Al Haram Al Sharif and all its facilities, plazas, gates and walls for the Muslim nation”.
He stressed that the Magharbeh Gate is “a holy entrance to Al Haram Al Sharif as it is situated in the Buraq area where the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) tethered his steed for Al Israa’ wal Miraaj”.
The statement also cited an incident in 2007 when a Turkish team of technical experts conducted an extensive study of the site and concluded that the cause of a 2004 collapse was not heavy rainfall as the Israelis claimed, “but was a deliberate act or negligence in preserving the site”.
“Undoubtedly, this is part of an Israeli plan to use restoration as an excuse to expand what they call ‘The Wailing Wall’, at the expense of Al Haram Al Sharif,” according to the official.
“The Magharbeh Gate, its pathway and the Buraq/Western Wall are indivisible parts of Al Haram Al Sharif which is an Islamic Waqf that Israel must respect under the 1994 Jordan-Israel Peace Treaty and all the international resolutions and conventions that have been issued since 1930, including the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict adopted at the Hague in 1954.”
“Since 2007, UNESCO alone has issued more than 30 resolutions and reports that have urged Israel to respect the Muslim Awqaf’s right to maintain the site,” the official added in the statement.
The official warned that the current Israeli excavations are clearly part of plans by extremist Israelis to occupy parts of Al Haram Al Sharif or destroy part of the compound, which “have already begun to be realised”, citing tens of interlinking projects such as tunnelling, building museums and synagogues above and below the vicinity of the holy Al Aqsa Mosque that are under way.
“Jordan warns that any… transgression against any Muslim waqfs at Al Haram Al Sharif, including its facilities, gates, plazas, walls, entrances and gardens will inflame Muslims all over the world and lead to an endless cycle of violence.”