New mosque built on Temple Mount despite Netanyahu’s order to close it

Netanyahu’s declarations notwithstanding – the Muslim Wakf inaugurates a new mosque at the Temple Mount’s Mercy Gate.

By World Israel News Staff

Although Prime Minister Netanyahu announced that he had instructed the authorities to prevent the opening of a new mosque at the Temple Mount’s Mercy Gate, the Moslem Religious Trust (Wakf) has continued construction work at a feverish pace, causing irreparable damage to the ancient structure.

“Israel has not given its consent to opening the mosque on the Temple Mount,” Netanyahu said at the end of February.

A statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office at the time declared that Netanyahu had given instructions “to enforce the court order without compromise and to ensure that the site remains closed,” but in practice it appears that the work that is turning the site into a mosque has passed the point of no return.

Regavim, an Israeli NGO which deals with illegal Arab building and land issues, petitioned Israel’s High Court of Justice this week on the eve of Jerusalem Day, which celebrates the 1967 re-unification of Jerusalem, renewing an earlier call to prevent the opening of the mosque.

The group submitted an urgent request to the High Court of Justice for a temporary injunction that would close the structure at the Temple Mount’s Mercy Gate, in an attempt to restore the status quo at the site.

The petition, based on documentation of the Wakf’s recent activities at the site, proved that the Wakf has taken steps to permanently turn a historic structure at the Temple Mount’s Mercy Gate into a mosque, carrying out construction work that has irreparably damaged the ancient building, in flagrant violation of Netanyahu’s instructions to enforce the closure of the building.

Regavim submitted its first petition in March, but Justice Meni Mazuz allowed the government and the Wakf 90 days to respond – a period of time that gave the Wakf “all the time it needed to complete its plan and transform the site into a Muslim-only compound,” Regavim says.

When the defense establishment identified radical Islamist activity at the site, orchestrated by Hamas operatives, the government requested a court order to shut down the site, which was issued by the Jerusalem Magistrates Court. The Wakf ignored the court order and continued its construction project – “in broad daylight, and in flagrant disregard for the law,” Regavim says.

A group of Hamas supporters on the Temple Mount, (Flash90/Sliman Khader)

In light of the continued construction work and the government’s failure to enforce the closure order that was issued at its own request, Regavim petitioned the High Court of Justice to shorten the 90-day period granted to the State and the Wakf to respond to the earlier petition.

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In its response to this petition, the government argued that the relevant authorities “are taking steps to regulate an overall approach for dealing with the Mercy Gate compound; there is, therefore, no need for a temporary injunction to be issued at this stage.”

Despite the government’s claim that it was tending to the matter, the Wakf continued to carry out illegal construction work on the Mercy Gate structure, installing ceiling fans, lighting, furniture, and room dividers – permanent changes that have harmed the ancient structure, all without any oversight of the Israel Antiquities Authority, as required by law, Regavim says.

“It’s the most ancient structure on the Temple Mount, 1,400 years old,” Naomi Kahn told World Israel News. “In 1967, when Israel recaptured the Temple Mount, there was only one mosque – al-Aqsa. Now, there’s five.”

“Every single Israeli authority, the police, the courts, the government, have shirked their responsibility. It’s illegal to carry out work at ancient sites without proper oversight. In those 90 days that Justice Mazuz gave the Waqf, the Muslims did everything and Israel did nothing,” she said.

Yakhin Zik, director of operations at Regavim, said, “It is impossible to overstate the massive damage that has been done to the rule of law in this case: Lawbreakers do whatever they please at a holy site that is of indescribable religious and archaeological significance, in violation of a court order.”

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”Without a temporary injunction, the illegal seizure of the compound and the illegal construction work will continue. The bottom line is that on Prime Minister Netanyahu’s watch, Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem is being trampled,” Zik said.