As we reported previously, in early December 2011 Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat attempted (once again) to force the Netanyahu’s hand regarding the Mughrabi Gate, threatening this time not only to condemn the existing ramp but to institute legal proceedings against government officials for blocking him. All of this came to a head in the second week of December, when the City Engineer issued the condemnation order and the ramp was closed for three days.
Encouraged by people in positions of authority in Israel and by friends of Israel in the international community, Netanyahu handled a potentially volatile crisis deftly: in moves designated to deprive Barkat of his pretext for shutting down the ramp (a purported fire hazard), Netanyahu instructed that a fire truck be posted on the site and that a world-renowned engineer from the Technion examine the site, towards the goal of addressing genuine public safety concerns without necessitating the demolition of the ramp. These steps appear to have trumped Barkat’s efforts regarding Mughrabi, at least for the time being (the ramp has been re-opened).
Pending crises, like the one surrounding the Mughrabi ramp, usually go dormant rather than disappearing, and the outstanding disputes regarding the future design of the ramp remain unresolved. One would hope that the new Jordanian stewardship over Israel-Palestine negotiations will restore trust between Jordan and Israel sufficiently to explore the possibility of reaching an agreement regarding the future of the ramp. Pending such an agreement, the current situation is probably the best outcome, and Netanyahu deserves credit for making it possible.