Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Knesset in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: AFP PHOTO)
Israel does not need to apologize for or justify its presence in the Jewish people’s historic capital of Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday during a Knesset meeting in honor of Jerusalem Day.
Netanyahu inveighed against the UNESCO decision last month ignoring Israel’s ties to the Temple Mount and Western Wall. “It’s so absurd, so ridiculous; I can’t get over it,” he said.
“Do people claim the Egyptians aren’t connected to the pyramids in Giza? It’s ridiculous.”
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) also lamented the UNESCO resolution in his remarks, saying “no international organization can break our special connection to Jerusalem, the connection of the eternal people to the eternal city.”
The prime minister detailed Israel’s ties to the ancient city since the time of King David and through the First and Second Temple eras.
He also discussed violence and incitement by Palestinians relating to the Temple Mount, saying that, ideally, there would be freedom of worship for all, but a lack of tolerance by some in the region prevent that ideal from coming true.
In addition, Netanyahu said that violence has been reduced near the Temple Mount due to coordination with neighboring countries.
“We’re making the same efforts for Ramadan,” he added. “Violence will not deter us or put our control over Jerusalem in doubt.”
Netanyahu hailed Jerusalem as “a mixed city with a complex fabric of life,” saying “coexistence is not perfect or idyllic, but it still exists.
“Jerusalem deserves quiet.
We cannot let anyone spark extremism,” he stated.
Opposition and coalition politicians taking part in the discussion sparred over whether Jerusalem should remain united or be divided once again, as they marked the start of the 50th year since the Six Day War, in which the Old City was liberated.
Netanyahu recounted the divided Jerusalem of his youth: “People who grew up in Jerusalem, like me, remember the shootings from east to west [from the Jordanian side to the Israeli side]... Shootings were never initiated from west to east.
“There are some people who want to bring back that reality,” he warned.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein mocked those who say that the hope of thousands years to return to Jerusalem did not include Shuafat or other Arab neighborhoods in the city’s east.
“That is a mistaken and misleading argument. When King David sat in Jerusalem and wrote songs about the Holy City, he wasn’t talking about Rehavia or Talbiyeh [in western Jerusalem]. He simply wrote about Jerusalem,” Edelstein said.
Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin continued the theme of disparaging those who seek to divide the capital, getting into an extended shouting match with Zionist Union MKs, whom he said abandoned the Labor Party’s historic positions.
“I suggest we all return to the consensus that knew to stand up to the world and say ‘Jerusalem is not up for negotiation,’ as Rabin said,” Elkin stated.
“[The Left] thinks that in order to save Jerusalem, we have to divide it. We’re in charge, so Jerusalem will not be divided. That is what the public wants,” he added.
Herzog, however, said that the idea of a united Jerusalem is an “illusion,” and the city is part Palestinian, part Israeli.
“Jerusalem will not remain Jewish, moral, whole and safe if there is not a dramatic diplomatic change,” he argued. “If we don’t urgently – without delay and without excuses – make an agreement between two nations, or at least move toward it and create peace, both nations will continue to be gripped by death and live at each other’s throats.”
Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal- On argued that “there won’t be peace until Jerusalem is the capital of two countries with a shared urban space. It’s called a compromise.
“Even if you disagree with my solution, Jerusalem should be a city where no one is stabbed and everyone’s garbage is collected,” she said.