Israel has postponed the controversial demolition of an access ramp to the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, fearing a wave of protest across the Arab and Islamic worlds, public radio reported on Sunday.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took the decision in order not to spark anti-Israel protests in Egypt as it begins voting in the first parliamentary elections since the February downfall of Hosni Mubarak, the station said.
A spokesman for Jerusalem municipality refused to comment to AFP on the proposed work which had been due to begin late on Saturday.
On October 23, the city council said that it had ordered that the access ramp be demolished.
The wooden structure has been at the centre of a complex row between the municipality and the groups that oversee the Muslim and Jewish parts of the plaza that houses the Western Wall and the Al-Aqsa mosque.
The ramp leads from the Western Wall, the most sacred site at which Jews can pray, to the adjoining compound that houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif.
Jews venerate the site as the Temple Mount, where King Herod’s temple once stood before it was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. It is the holiest site in Judaism, but Jews are forbidden to worship there.
The ramp was erected in 2004 as a temporary measure after the collapse of a previous walkway, and is used by non-Muslim visitors to the historic site as well as by Israeli security forces wanting to enter the plaza.
Subsequent work to renovate the ramp has been hampered by the sensitivity of the site, and claims by the Islamic Waqf, which oversees the plaza.
Renovations were suspended four years ago following a wave of protest across the Muslim world over fears that the construction endangered Islamic structures.