(JTA) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shelved a plan for government offices near the Western Wall, saying that building in the sensitive area could spur more violence.
Beit Haliba was scheduled for approval Thursday by the Interior Ministry’s District Committee for Construction and Planning in Jerusalem, but the approval process was suspended indefinitely following a request for its removal from the agenda by the Prime Minister’s Bureau, Army Radio reported on Friday.
The request cited the desire to refrain from moves that could lead to an escalation in violence, the report said.
The Western Wall is adjacent to the Temple Mount, or Haram al Sharif, a site holy to both Muslims and Jews that has been the locus of the recent escalation in violence.
According to the plan, the Beit Haliba is to include office space for the Western Wall Heritage Foundation and several government offices, which the report on Army Radio did not specify.
The suspension comes amid what Netanyahu described this week as a “wave of terror” by Palestinians in the West Bank and Israel, and especially in Jerusalem. Last week, two Israelis in their 30s, Na’ama and Eitam Henkin, were killed in an attack near the West Bank settlement of Itamar. Several Palestinians also were killed and injured in clashes with security forces.
On Friday, Israeli authorities restricted access to the Temple Mount area, barring Palestinian men under age 50. Women’s access is unrestricted.
Separately, Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, accused Israel of trying to cause Palestinians to act violently.
“We will not allow ourselves to be dragged where they want to drag us,” Abbas said at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new building in Ramallah, according to a translation of his speech provided by Army Radio.