Wait Until September to Build Bridge, Police Advise

Police officials are recommending that a permanent bridge to the Mughrabi Gate adjacent to the Western Wall be built in September, while the world's attention is focused on the Palestinians' statehood bid in the UN General Assembly.

Ever since an earthen ramp leading to the gate collapsed in 2005 and was replaced by a temporary wooden bridge, the security establishment has been dragging its feet over building a more permanent structure to link the Temple Mount entrance to the Western Wall plaza.

In recent weeks security officials have been engaged in feverish debate over when to begin work.

In a meeting on Sunday in the office of the commander of the police Jerusalem District, Maj. Gen. Niso Shaham, officials decided to hold off on construction of the new bridge for now.

However, government officials have the final say on the matter because of the international repercussions of the decision.

The meeting was attended by representatives of the Israel Defense Forces Central Command, Military Intelligence, police, representatives of the Shin Bet security service in Jerusalem and the West Bank, and the Jerusalem municipality.

Police officials at the meeting contradicted the municipal officials' assessment that the current bridge was unsafe, and said it did not need replacing right now.

When concerns were voiced over how Arabs would respond to construction, IDF officials said they could deal with any disturbances.

Intelligence officials were divided as to how the Islamic Movement would react to construction. One official said the head of the movement's Northern Branch, Raed Salah, was "weak in Jerusalem" and therefore would be unable to spark riots.

However the adviser to the Jerusalem District of the police said that any violation of the status quo on the Temple Mount would rally Arab opposition and lead to riots throughout the capital.

The adviser said that it would be best to postpone construction until September when the attention of the Arab would not be focused on Jerusalem because of the expected vote on Palestinian statehood in the United Nations at that time.

Other officials in the police's Jerusalem District said they believed quiet will prevail in Jerusalem because the East Jerusalem Arab community rejects what they see as disruptive influences like the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement.