Well-known archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar of Hebrew University told Arutz Sheva Radio that she sees the recent revelation of First Temple artifacts on the Temple Mount as further proof of what she called the Antiquities Authority's "criminal behavior." The

The destruction on the Temple Mount continues... due to "a direct order from the Prime Minister's Office."

destruction on the Temple Mount continues, she charged, due to "a direct order from the Prime Minister's Office" to ignore the Islamic Waqf's violations of antiquities preservation laws.

Asked why the Prime Minister would issue such a directive, Dr. Mazar said, "I am an archaeologist, not a politician. However, it is clear that the Prime Minister must not avert his eyes from the destruction of antiquities on the Temple Mount. Not even at the cost of tranquility. These are artifacts that have been permanently ruined and we will never be able to restore them."

The Antiquities Authority, Mazar noted, allows construction by the Waqf, the Islamic religious authority, to proceed on the Temple Mount without consistent state oversight. In the past, Mazar, as a member of the Committee for the Prevention of Destruction of Temple Mount Antiquities, warned that ongoing Waqf digging of a trench on the Mount was destroying Second Temple artifacts.

"It is adding insult to injury," Dr. Mazar said on Monday, "I have no idea what [the Antiquities Authority] wants people to think of them - other than that they are preening themselves over criminality and over their permission to carry out illegal construction."

In September, the Committee of which Dr. Mazar is a member filed a petition with the High Court of Justice to halt the destructive works being carried out by the Waqf. In addition to an immediate intervention, the Committee petitioned for the regulated oversight of any further Waqf construction on the Temple Mount.

"We would expect that the same demands [made during construction at other historical sites] be applied primarily at the Temple Mount," Mazar added, explaining that the Antiquities Authority provides precise regulations for such projects all around the country. Under existing law, contractors who discover artifacts while digging for their construction projects are obligated to freeze construction and inform the appropriate authorities. This law is completely ignored on the Temple Mount, according to Dr. Mazar and her colleagues.

Waqf Denies Existence of First Temple Artifacts

The director of the Waqf for holy sites in Jerusalem told a Lebanese newspaper that Israeli reports of archaeological finds from the First Temple period are baseless. Azzam Al-Hatib charged that Israel timed the reports to try to prove a Jewish link to the site at the same time the Palestinian Authority has demanded control of the Old City.

Muslims have been conducting a campaign that has escalated in the past two years to convince the world that there is no Jewish connection with the Old City of Jerusalem. They argue that the Western Wall (Kotel) was a hitching post for a mythical horse ridden by Islam's founder, Muhammad. Historically, the 7th-century Arabian leader never set foot in Jerusalem.