Jews were blocked Thursday from reaching the Kotel (Western Wall) Prayer Plaza by the hundreds of Israeli-Arab protestors. Islamic clerics leading the demonstration as well as Arab politicians threatened an “Intifada worse than the previous one in 2000” if the Israel Antiquities Authority did not immediately halt the repair work and excavations at the site.

Spokesman Aryeh King, representing the Jewish associations in the eastern part of the capital, said that if the Jerusalem district police did not disperse the Arab mob, he would petition the High Court.

Peretz, in his letter - which Olmert’s office said was delivered to the press before it was delivered to Olmert - quotes Defense Ministry official IDF General (res.) Amos Gilad, who claims the work damages relations with Arab and Muslim nations. The Labor Party Chairman wrote his own opinion that the construction would create friction with the Arab world instead of maintaining calm.

The Prime Minister’s Office rejected Peretz’s call. A statement was issued as follows:

“The restoration of the Mugrabi path after the place collapsed and was declared a dangerous structure was done in complete coordination with all parties, including foreign countries, relevant Muslim officials and international bodies. As has been explained, this work is being carried on outside the Temple Mount, and the repairs do not constitute any damage to the Mount or Islamic holy places.

“The work is being carried out by professionals and with complete transparency, entirely for the safety of visitors to the Mount. A thorough examination of the matter would reveal that nothing about the work underway will harm anyone, and there is no truth in the contentions against the work."

A Foreign Ministry statement dismissed the criticism as an exploitation of the situation. "The Temple Mount is the holiest site of the Jewish people,” Foreign Minister Tzippi Livny said in a statement Wednesday. “The State of Israel will never do anything to harm the freedom of worship of members of all religions - in Jerusalem or anywhere in Israel. There are irresponsible elements, who know full well that no harm is being caused here to any holy site, who are exploiting Israeli democracy to fan religious feelings for political gain. This is true of both political groups within Israel and extremist elements outside Israel.”

Meanwhile, Muslims are escalating their threats and violence throughout the Middle East, including in Israel’s own Knesset and among Israeli-Arab leaders. Arab Knesset Member Taleb El-Sana (Ra’am-Ta’al) called upon the Organization of the Islamic conference to meet on the issue of “Israeli damage to the Temple Mount.” El-Sana echoes the Department of Arab and International Relations (DAIR) of the Palestinian Authority, which claimed Israel has begun "demolishing two rooms in [the] Al-Aqsa line with the Israeli plans to demolish the entire holy shrine and build the alleged Soleiman [sic] temple in its place."

Israeli-Arab Sheikh Raad Salah, who heads the radical Islamic Movement, was arrested Wednesday for attacking policemen blocking his entry to the Western Wall Plaza. He has issued a call for an “Intifada” of Israel’s Arabs and vowed he would return and address Thursday’s protesters despite a 10-day restraining order he received before being released by police.

The leaders of Jordan, Syria and Iran, as well as Islamic chiefs in Egypt, have all condemned the work. "The world of Islam should show a serious reaction to the Zionist regime's insult to Al-Aksa Mosque," Iranian Islamic ruler Ayatollah Ali Khameini said on Wednesday. Khameini called on Muslim nations to attack Israel in response during a meeting with Islamic Jihad chief Ramadan Abdullah Shallah.

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