There is no solution for the problem that Jerusalem and the Temple Mount pose within the context of the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Center for American Progress in Washington on Tuesday.
“Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, it’s insoluble. I just do not see right now a solution for that. It has to remain under Israeli sovereignty – that is the only way to prevent this from exploding into sectarian strife,” Netanyahu said.
The Temple Mount and the potential division of Jerusalem are two of the most sensitive issues that Israel and the Palestinians need to resolve before they can arrive at a negotiated two-state solution.
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Israel believes that a united Jerusalem must remain its capital, and the Palestinians want east Jerusalem to be the capital of their future state.
The Palestinian leadership has also warned that Israel has violated the status quo on the Temple Mount, which they call al-Haram al-Sharif (noble sanctuary). Such fears helped spark a wave of Palestinian attacks against Israelis.
Netanyahu spoke for an hour, answering questions both from the audience and from CAP president and CEO Neera Tanden.
She quizzed him about his comment on election day in March
urging Likud supporters to vote by warning that, “Arab voters are coming in droves to the polls.”
She asked Netanyahu: “What do you say to progressives in the United States who worry about comments like that and what it means for an inclusive Israel?” Netanyahu answered: “The statement as it was said, was wrong. You should know that Arabs voted for me and I welcomed that. I think they voted for me in considerably larger numbers than they voted for the Labor Party.”
He said he did not mean for the statement to be interpreted in a negative way, as he had not been referring to all Israeli- Arab citizens, but rather supporters of the Israeli-Arab party, known as The Joint List.
Still, he told Tanden, “It should not have been said.
A few days after the election I called in the Arab leaders to the Prime Minister’s Residence and I said, ‘I am the prime minister of each of you.”
Netanyahu gave Tanden examples of steps he had taken to improve life for Israeli-Arabs, including after the March election. These steps involved budgetary support of billions of shekels for transportation and education, he said.
“I am the prime minister of all the citizens of Israel. Those who voted for me, those who did not vote for me; Jews, Arabs, Druse, Circassians, Muslims, Christians.”