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APN to Rice: "Stop Jerusalem Excavations, Construction Plan"

"What happens in Jerusalem does not stay in Jerusalem. Rather, it can have an enormous impact on attitudes and events elsewhere..."

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - February 8, 2007
CONTACT: Ori Nir - (202) 728-1893

Washington, D.C - Americans for Peace Now today called on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to urgently intervene to stop the current excavations and planned construction by Israel near the Temple Mount/al Aqsa Mosque compound (known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif). In a letter to Rice, APN warned that such destabilizing actions could spark violent protest not only in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza but throughout the Arab and Muslim world.

"What happens in Jerusalem does not stay in Jerusalem. Rather, it can have an enormous impact on attitudes and events elsewhere - not only in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, but throughout the region and the world. For the sake of U.S. vital interests, including concern for Israel and for security and stability in the region, we urge you to intervene with effective diplomacy to stop this reckless and irresponsible enterprise," wrote APN's chair, Franklin M. Fisher, and the organization's president and CEO, Debra DeLee. APN is a Jewish, Zionist organization whose mission is to enhance Israel's security through peace and to support the Israeli Peace Now movement.

The letter refers to excavations that Israel is currently carrying out adjacent to the Temple Mount compound. This work is in preparation for the construction of a new access bridge to the compound, intended to replace the centuries-old Mughrabi Gate access ramp, which has fallen into disrepair three years ago. "Unfortunately, rather than preserving and respecting the delicate and longstanding status quo in this extremely sensitive area, the current Israeli plan envisions greatly expanding this access route onto the Temple Mount compound. This project, if implemented, would mark the first time since 1967 that Israel has directly altered the status quo on the Temple Mount compound," the letter to Rice asserts.

Jerusalem's Old City, and in particular the Temple Mount, is one of the most politically and religiously sensitive places in the world. It is holy to Jews, Muslims, and Christians. "Past Israeli actions that were perceived as efforts to change the status quo in the Old City - such as the opening of the Hasmonean Tunnel in 1996 or the visit to the Temple Mount by Ariel Sharon in 2000 - triggered violence and protest not only in Israel and the West Bank/Gaza, but throughout the region," the letter points out.

"Clearly, Israel has the right, and even the obligation, to ensure safe access onto the Temple Mount compound via the Mughrabi Gate. However, consistent with both with longstanding practice and political common sense, any new construction project in the area should be undertaken only with full transparency, in consultation and with the agreement of all interested parties," the letter says.

For background information on the current Temple Mount crisis, as well as the full text of the letter to Rice, go to APN's "Mughrabi Gate Crisis" Index Page.