The Knesset Interior Committee last week held a session to discuss the maintenance and condition of the Kotel HaKatan. Committee Chairwoman expressed objection to Israel Police’s refusal to remove the scaffolding that holds up an adjacent building that has been in place since 1972. She explained that the prime minister and the government have decided the Kotel HaKatan is to be regarded as part of the Kosel and treated accordingly. Police continue to insist the scaffolding must remain in place as per a government decision “based on political considerations”. Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mandelblit says it isn’t so, that there is no such cabinet decision to leave the scaffolding in place. Miri wants Israel to take control and clean the area and make it suitable for people to visit.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat says his office would love nothing more than to remove the scaffolding immediately but police will not permit it.
Moti Dan of the Ateret Kohanim organization explains Jerusalem City Hall put the scaffolding support into place in 1972 to prevent the building adjacent from the Kotel HaKatan from collapsing. He explains that danger does not exist today and one of the support structures has already been removed. He said police placed the large garbage dumpster and is responsible for the accumulation of garbage and refuses to permit anyone to clear the area as it should be. He accuses police of violating the status quo by trying to create a different reality that the one which existed.
Police Chief Yochanan Danino explains removal of the structure would violate the status quo and therefore the cabinet is the only body authorized to call for its removal for doing so may lead to violent disturbances. The chief’s words enjoy the backing of Minister of Public Security Yitzchak Aharonovich. The minister tells the media he relies on the chief’s judgment and assessment of the situation.
Kosel Rav Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz says that the Kosel Heritage Society is responsible for the area, which is part of the Kotel, and work began to clear the area but they were stopped by Jerusalem City Hall, which claims to have jurisdiction. “Since then, nothing has happened” explains the rav.
David Koren, the mayor’s advisor on eastern Jerusalem affairs says City Hall is responsible for maintenance, engineering, infrastructure and sanitation of the site.
MK (United Arab List) Jamal Zahalka says any change to the Kotel HaKatan will be viewed by the Muslim Waqf Authority and the Government of Jordan as a violation of the status quo. He points out agreements include al-Aqsa Mosque and all of the surrounding area. “It’s not for nothing the structure has not been removed to try to turn it into a holy area for doing so will result in widespread outcries and protest which are best avoided” the MK said. He calls MK Miri Regev “A pyromaniac who seeks any chance she has of provocation”.
Foreign Ministry official David Govrin, who is responsible for Jordanian Desk, explains Jordan is now seeking to define or create a new status called “special status” based on agreements with Israel, claiming Jordan’s special rights and responsibilities for areas of the city. Govrin explains Jordan’s efforts are not viewed as legitimate and that is what lead’s to Amman’s attacks against Israel in many forums, both regional and international.
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)