Tzachi Dvira, the archaeologist managing the team that sifts through soil excavated from the Temple Mount, on Thursday called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to immediately order the evacuation of the Golden Gate compound from the Arabs that took over it.
The Golden Gate, known as Bab al-Rahma in Arabic, was closed by Israeli authorities several years ago because the group running the area was found to have ties to Hamas. It has been kept closed to stop illegal construction work by the Waqf.
Over the last several weeks, riots and clashes occurred on the Temple Mount as Muslims forcibly tried enter the closed compound.
Last Friday, rioters forced their way into the Golden Gate, after police officers were instructed to contain the rioters, but not to remove them from the area.
In a conversation with Arutz Sheva on Thursday, Dvira said that militant elements who had previously been responsible for destroying antiquities in Solomon's Stables had joined the Waqf Council, warning, "This is a worrying incident of harm to Israeli sovereignty over the Temple Mount as it was in the saga of the magnetometers.”
"We are returning to the post-Oslo era when Arafat took over the Waqf. In recent years Israel has succeeded in returning the Waqf to Jordanian control, and now it is going to return to the hands of Palestinian extremists who want to ignite the area," he added, calling for the Golden Gate to be evacuated even at the price of riots.
"They may be taking advantage of the elections, but we must be prepared to pay the price. All the pressure that the police have exerted so far, including arrests, is not what will cause them to fold. There’s no other choice, we have to break in and take them out of there,” said Dvira.
"The legal focus on whether the 2003 closure order is still valid is a mistake. The State of Israel has the right to determine that security considerations require that the compound be closed. This structure is not part of the mosques. Israel in the past allowed them to use the place for specific things like tests for schoolchildren, but there is no reason for us to surrender to violence," he continued, expressing a concern over possible damage to antiquities as was the case in the past.
"I heard that the Waqf asked for a permit to renovate the site and that the ministerial committee approved it. If that is true, it is crazy. They will renovate the site and damage the antiquities. There are remnants there from the period of the Second Temple. If they are allowed to renovate, I doubt there will be archaeological inspection there. I hope that the State of Israel will come to its senses and prevent the next archaeological disaster."
Listen to the interview with Tzachi Dvira (in Hebrew):