'Heritage decision not political'

At Knesset, PM reiterates youth must be allowed to connect to Jewish sites.

March 3, 2010 17:43
2 minute read.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu attends the week

netanyahu cabinet good 311. (photo credit: AP)


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During an address to the Knesset on Wednesday afternoon, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu attempted to alleviate tensions between the opposition and the coalition and stop the fragile calm in Jerusalem and the West Bank from shattering completely in the wake of the government's recently announced plan to include Jewish sites in the Palestinian territories on a list of sites of national importance.

"The Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel's Tomb have been a part of our heritage for 4,000 years. We must allow the younger generation to connect to that heritage," Netanyahu told the assembled MKs, adding that just as maintenance work had been carried out on the Muslim side of the Cave of the Patriarchs, the same must be done on the Jewish side.

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Netanyahu reiterated his government's interest in conducting peace talks with the Palestinians – "it takes two to tango," he said, referring to the Palestinian Authority's renewed, unprecedented demands and preconditions – but was less optimistic on the issue of negotiations with Hamas to release captured IDF soldier St.-Sgt. Gilad Schalit. Israel, he said, has come a long way since talks began, and is willing to go even further. He stressed, however, that Israel would agree to free prisoners who were likely to commit murder once more – be it in the West Bank or elsewhere.

He said that while Israel had communicated this principle clearly in its latest counter-proposal to Hamas, it had not yet received an “official response,” contrary to various reports.

On the issue of Israel's relations with its Middle Eastern neighbors, Netanyahu cited a national transportation initiative which would connect the Red Sea to the Mediterranean by train as one plan which could “deepen the peace” between Israel and Jordan. He added that from a regional and global perspective, the railroad tracks – along with the extension of Route 6 further north and further south – would serve as a new Asiatic transportation route.

The prime minister also stressed that under his leadership, the government was taking many steps to “renew the face of the State of Israel and boost education, and will continue to do so despite the criticism and the foul language.”

Speaking after Netanyahu, Kadima and opposition leader Tzipi Livni harshly criticized the prime minister for failing to make substantial progress in foreign policy, peace negotiations or domestic affairs during his first year in office. She further accused Netanyahu of having risen to his post through manipulations and politicking.

Alluding to the prime minister's statement concerning stunted talks with the Palestinian Authority, Livni said that while it does take two to tango, Netanyahu himself had not been proactive in his efforts to renew the talks.

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