The Western Wall is not occupied territory, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
said over the weekend as he promised to continue to buck the international
community to defend Israel’s right to build in Jerusalem, including over the
Interviews he gave to the three main Israeli television
stations – channels 1, 2 and 10 – were aired in full on Saturday night, amid
international furor over Israel’s approval of thousands of new homes in east
Jerusalem and the advancement of plans for 3,500 homes just outside the city, on
a West Bank plot of land known as E1.
“I am saying this in the clearest
way possible: The Western Wall is not occupied territory, and I do not care what
the United Nations says [on this matter],” Netanyahu told Channel 2.
said he had just stood near the Tower of David in the Old City with foreign
“I said to them, would you accept it if you could not build
in your capitals?” Netanyahu recalled. “My fundamental position is that we live
in a Jewish nation; Jerusalem became that nation’s capital over 3,000 years ago.
We will build in Jerusalem because it’s our right,” he said.
Jewish people bowed to international pressure, the State of Israel would not
have been created, the Six Day War would not have been fought, the Iraqi nuclear
reactor at Osirak would not have been bombed and Petah Tikva and Kfar Saba would
never have been built, Netanyahu told Channel 1.
He rejected charges that
he approved the new homes, including 1,048 in West Bank settlements, to curry
favor with right-wing voters.
But, he said, massive electoral support for
his Likud Party would help him defend Israel both diplomatically and
“On Election Day Israeli citizens will send a message, not
only domestically but also to the international community,” he said.
you know who will be paying attention to the election results?” Netanyahu asked.
“[Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, [Hezbollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah
[and Hamas chief Khaled] Mashaal, they’ll wait for polls to close and for
results to be publicized. And they’ll want to know if the prime minister was
strengthened or weakened.”
Still, he told Channel 2, when it asked him
why he suddenly began building, “What happened is not the elections. What
happened is that the Palestinians appealed to the UN – they just ripped apart
all their agreements with us. If they act unilaterally, we will not sit idly
Netanyahu said he supported a two-state solution, but that it had to
be brought about in such a way that would not place Iran in the West
The prime minister said he did not know if he could make peace with
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
“When Abu Mazen [Abbas]
embraces Hamas and calls for reconciliation with Hamas, allows for Hamas
demonstrations [in the West Bank] that call for Israel’s destruction, I ask
myself: ‘Is he a partner for peace?’ “You have to ask a simple question, why
does Abu Mazen serially refuse, for four years, to enter negotiations? Why does
he place preconditions on the start of those talks?” Netanyahu asked. “I have
conditions for concluding the talks, but not for starting them.”
Netanyahu’s words, the international community has leveled the brunt of its
public criticism on Israel, saying that building in West Bank settlements and
east Jerusalem is harming any possibility of renewed talks.
the EU and Russia denounced Israeli actions.
“The European Union and the
Russian Federation are deeply dismayed by and strongly oppose Israeli plans to
expand settlements in the West Bank and in particular plans to develop the E1
area,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and EU foreign policy chief
Catherine Ashton said in a statement.
“The EU and the Russian Federation
underline the urgency of renewed, structured and substantial peace efforts in
2013,” said the joint statement after an EURussia summit in Brussels.
EU and Russia, which together with the US and UN make up the Quartet of Middle
East mediators, said the settlements were illegal under international law and
were an obstacle to peace.
“The EU and the Russian Federation will not
recognize any changes to the pre-1967 borders, including with regard to
Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties,” they said. It was time to
take “bold and concrete steps towards peace between Palestinians and Israelis,”
they said, calling for “direct and substantial negotiations without
The EU and Russia also called for the unconditional
opening of crossings for the flow of goods and people to and from the Gaza
Strip, and urged Israel to avoid any step that would undermine the financial
situation of the PA.
They urged the Palestinian leadership to use the
Palestinians’ new UN status constructively and avoid steps that would deepen the
lack of trust and lead further away from a negotiated solution.
Post staff and Reuters contributed to this report.