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Western Wall Heightens Israeli-Palestinian Tensions

The New York Times


Jerusalem and its holy sites are one of the most intractable and emotional issues of the Israeli-Arab conflict. Israel conquered the eastern part of Jerusalem, including the Old City, from Jordan in the 1967 war, and annexed it in a move that was never internationally recognized. About 200000 Jews live in areas of East Jerusalem that have been developed since 1967, among about a quarter-million Palestinians. The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.


The Western Wall is a remnant of the retaining wall of a plateau revered by Jews as the Temple Mount, the site where their ancient temples once stood. The plateau is also the third holiest site in Islam. Known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, the compound now includes Al Aksa Mosque and the golden Dome of the Rock.


In Muslim tradition, the wall is the place where the Prophet Muhammad tethered his winged steed, Buraq, during his miraculous overnight journey from Mecca to Jerusalem in the seventh century.


The unofficial competition for control of Jerusalem takes place stone by stone and house by house. On Tuesday, Jewish activists moved into a building they had acquired in Jebel Mukaber, a predominantly Arab neighborhood overlooking the Old City and its holy shrines, and on Wednesday another group of Jewish activistsmoved into an apartment on the Mount of Olives, in a Palestinian neighborhood, A-Tur.


Benjamin Netanyahu, in a statement issued by his office, said the Western Wall “has been the Jewish people’s most sacred place for almost 2000 years, since the destruction of the Second Temple.” He added that the Palestinian Authority’s denial of a Jewish link “calls into serious question its intentions of reaching a peace agreement, the foundations of which are coexistence and mutual recognition.”


The Palestinian government issued a statement titled “Israeli crimes of destruction,” listing Israeli actions in Jerusalem and Israel’s demolition in recent days of numerous Palestinian structures that were built without permits in Israeli-controlled areas of the West Bank.