The Temple Mount Preservation Act, with bipartisan support, was introduced yesterday by U.S. Congressman Eric Cantor (R-Virginia). Cantor explained that the bill calls upon the U.S. to cut off all aid to the Palestinian Authority until the Moslem Waqf stops its destructive activities on the Temple Mount. At stake for the PA is $125 million in aid this coming year, part of a $400-million, three-year package appropriated by Congress last year, and another $75 million in indirect annual aid to the Palestinians.

At a press conference yesterday, Cantor provided a background history of the Temple Mount, emphasizing that it is located in \"Jerusalem, Israel.\" He said it \"represents thousands of years of our Judeo-Christian heritage and is one of the most sacred sites to Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.\" Cantor presented photographs released by a coalition of Israel\'s leading archaeologists, authors, and public figures, showing the excavation of religious artifacts, paving, and unauthorized PA construction. Excerpts from his remarks:

\"Connected with such destruction is extreme religious intolerance - contrary to the Jeffersonian principles of the free exercise of religion held dear by all Americans... This issue has implications not only for my constituents in Virginia, but for individuals across the globe... The Temple Mount is the site of the Biblical temple built by King Solomon, as well as the temple visited by Jesus as a child and again as an adult... In 1967, Jerusalem was united under Israel’s sovereignty. Since that time, Israel has been legally responsible for the Temple Mount. The government has allowed equal access for all religions. Shortly after the 1967 War, the Israeli government delegated authority for the daily oversight of the Temple Mount to the Waqf, a Muslim Foundation, in tacit cooperation with Jordan. Jordan’s role as custodian of Muslim religious interests was codified in the Israel-Jordanian peace treaty of 1994.

\"In the aftermath of the negotiations surrounding the Oslo Accords, Chairman Yasser Arafat took control of the Waqf, bringing about a change in the policy of free access for all religions on the Temple Mount. He began by replacing the Jordanian-affiliated clergymen and officials and named Mufti Ikrima Sabri the chief Muslim administrator. Sabri, known for his anti-Semitic and anti-American views, has since declared that the Jews have no right to the Temple Mount. More recently, Arafat has denied Jewish and Christian worshipers access to the historic Temple Mount and has restricted media from visiting the site. Beginning in early 1998, Arafat’s Waqf has permitted large-scale bulldozing and destruction of the Temple Mount antiquities. Thousands of tons of fill have been unearthed and simply dumped into the nearby Kidron Valley. Archeologists have verified these artifacts date from the period of the First Temple [over 2,500 years ago]. Anybody with any reasonable perspective would hold that the Temple Mount should be preserved and any disturbance thereon closely monitored. But now, there are bulldozers and stone-cutting machines hacking away every day. I know that in my District, we are known for historical sites, such as Montpelier, the home of former President James Madison. I can tell you that bulldozers come nowhere near the residence, or its estate.

\"I just returned from Israel two weeks ago... I saw ancient ruins unearthed from the time of the First and Second Temples. I saw construction equipment and materials protruding from the top of the Temple Mount, visible from the Southern Wall of the Temple Mount...

\" Attention should focus on the southeastern area of the Temple Mount, under which an area called Solomon’s Stables was connected with the Second Temple. In this area, Arafat has directed the destruction of what may have been part of the Temple complex. The Waqf’s action destroyed physical remnants of the religious site, including arched entranceways and colonnades believed to have played a role in religious life two thousand years ago. The pictures depict bulldozers crushing evidence of the religious site and new construction masking any trace of the temple...

\"The Boston Globe in March 2001 [quotes] Sheik Ikrima Sabri: \'The Temple Mount was never there…There is not one bit of proof to establish that. We do not recognize that the Jews have any right to the wall or to one inch of the sanctuary…Jews are greedy to control our mosque…If they every try to, it will be the end of Israel.\' The bottom line is, Chairman Arafat’s intent is to deny access to the Temple Mount for any individuals other than followers of Islam.\"