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ACTION ALERT 2/9/07: Excavations Could Spark Violence - U.S. Diplomacy Needed

...excavations and planned construction adjoining the Temple Mount/al Aqsa Mosque compound (known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif) threaten to spark violent protest not only in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza but throughout the Arab and Muslim world.

Israeli Soldier Amidst Protestors

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Excavations Could Spark Violence
U.S. Diplomacy Needed
Even as the turmoil in Gaza and the West Bank continues, international support is mounting behind efforts to renew substantive Israeli-Palestinian talks. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas repeatedly indicate they are ready to resume peace talks. Last week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced her intention "to define more clearly the political horizon for the Palestinian people" and engender a sense of Israeli-Palestinian partnership. The leaders of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other Arab states say they are eager to help. The potential for progress in Israeli-Palestinian talks seems real following the announcement of an Olmert-Abbas-Rice summit to take place on February 19th.

At the same time, excavations and planned construction adjoining the Temple Mount/al Aqsa Mosque compound (known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif) threaten to spark violent protest not only in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza but throughout the Arab and Muslim world. Similar actions in the past - such as the opening of the Hasmonean Tunnel in 1996 or the visit to the Temple Mount by Ariel Sharon in 2000 - triggered deadly riots throughout the region and poisoned the political environment.

Moreover, rather than preserving and respecting the longstanding status quo in this extremely sensitive area, the current Israeli plan unfortunately 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. In fact, it has been criticized by top Israeli archeologists who view it as compromising archeology in order to cater to Jewish extremists - extremists who harbor dangerous aspirations with respect to the Temple Mount and who have a long history of attempting provocative actions in this area.

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Please contact President Bush. Urge his Administration to intervene with effective diplomacy to stop this reckless and irresponsible enterprise. Voice your support for Secretary Rice's effort to renew peace talks. Reiterate that without a serious commitment by this Administration, there is a real risk that the trilateral meeting will end up being little more than a photo-op.