The Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem.
The Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem. Photo by Gil Eliyahu
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The American news website The Jewish Voice has published an Israeli State Comptroller's report on Israeli authorities' conduct regarding digs at Jerusalem's Temple Mount in 2007. In Israel, a gag order was placed on the report due to fears it would harm Israel's foreign relations and spark violent confrontations at the Temple Mount. News of the Jewish Voice report was first published in the Israeli weekend newspaper Sof Hashavua.

The State Comptroller composed the report in 2008, after it was ordered by the State Control Committee in the Knesset. The committee sought to examine the conduct of government authorities following the construction work carried out by the Waqf on the Temple Mount. The Waqf, the Muslim trust that is custodian of the Temple Mount, carried out the construction in order to repair a power line, which included the digging of a 1.5-meter-deep trench at the heart of the site.

The maintenance work was carried out despite the damage that was done to Temple Mount antiquities in 1999 when the Waqf did construction work to allow for a new opening for the mosque in Solomon's Stables.

Various bodies, including the Public Committee Against the Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount, claimed that the authorities were negligent when it came to preserving the antiquities and overseeing the construction carried out by the Waqf. The report includes damning conclusions regarding government authorities such as the Jerusalem Municipality, Israel Police, the Israel Antiquities Authority, and the government's legal adviser. The government requested that the report will not be published, which brought about claims from the political right that the government is using excuses such as security in order to avoid embarrassment.

Last year, the sub-committee of the Knesset's State Control Committee held several discussions regarding the publication of the report. According to sources that were present in the discussions, the Shin Bet did not oppose the publication and rather the main opposition came from the Foreign Ministry, which feared damaging relations with Jordan, and from the Public Security Ministry, which feared the outbreak of violent confrontations on the Temple Mount. At the end of the discussions, it was decided to keep the report classified.

Shmuel Berkovitch, an expert on Jerusalem's holy places, was one of the people who contributed to the report. Berkovich reported to the State Comptroller on a long line of failures of supervision and the enforcement of Israeli sovereignty over the Temple Mount. Among the failures that were pointed out was that the special ministerial committee that needs to approve any construction work on the Temple Mount never met. Another failure was that the government's legal adviser never ordered to prosecute any of the Waqf officials or any other bodies responsible for construction violations and harming antiquities. "As far as I know, all the failures that I have mentioned, without exception, were confirmed by the State Comptroller," Berkovich said. "It can be understood why the authorities did not want this report published."

Official sources said that even though the report was never published, conclusions were drawn and Israel increased the supervision over all work being done at the Temple Mount.