Netanyahu Ammunition Hill 311.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Israel wants peace with its neighbors, but not at the price of security, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Sunday at a ceremony on Ammunition Hill on the eve of Remembrance Day.
“Not one day has passed without us reaching out to our neighbors in peace. Not even one day, and we still reach out to those of our neighbors that desire peace,” said Netanyahu, who made his statements in the midst of a stalled peace process with the Palestinians.
“Over the years, we have learned that the olive branches of peace will only be attained if we are strong and are willing to defend our country as did those who have fallen here,” he said.
Since coming into office, Netanyahu has expressed readiness for direct talks with the Palestinians. They, in turn, have refused to sit down at the table with Israel unless it halts construction in West Bank settlements and east Jerusalem. Netanyahu has refused to meet both demands, although he has curbed construction in Judea and Samaria.
Netanyahu spoke in advance of a much-anticipated visit by US special envoy George Mitchell. As of Sunday evening, however, neither the prime minister’s office nor the US Embassy had a set date for his visit to the region, in spite of media reports that it could be later this week.
The prime minister also made reference on Sunday to the unity of Jerusalem.
Standing at the site of a battle that helped Israel wrest control of the entire city during the Six Day War, Netanyahu noted that at that time, “Ammunition Hill symbolized a wounded city, a city cut in half, and in its heart – a wall.”
Today, he continued, “along the outline of that same wall, there are light-rail tracks that will connect the flourishing Jerusalem neighborhoods established and built during the decades that have passed since the very day we are marking here today.”
He added that “Jerusalem, which until that time had been a divided and weakened city, became once again a city full of life, creativity and renewal.”
US President Barack Obama has called on Netanyahu to stop construction in Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem. Netanyahu has yet to respond.
Also Sunday, in Tel Aviv University, Defense Minister Ehud Barak spoke of the important role the ªUS had played in the peace process and said he believed that peace could be attained with the Palestinians, in the framework of the US road map and the two-state solution.
Only such an agreement, Barak said, would “ensure a Jewish majority for generations, in clear borders and an end of conflict and claims.”
He said this would necessitate “great and brave decisions, cooperation with the international community and close ties with the US.”
Earlier in the day, at the start of the cabinet meeting, in what media pundits believe was a veiled hint at the direction Netanyahu might take when he responds to Obama, the prime minister quoted a statement by Theodor Herzl as he unveiled a stamp of the Zionist founder.
“On June 11, 1901, Herzl said, ‘Do not rely on the help of foreigners
nor on that of benefactors; do not hope that stones will become soft.
Because benefactors give humiliating donations at most, and stones do
not soften. A people that wants to stand upright must put all its trust
in itself alone.’ I must say that I was not familiar with this
quotation, but one learns something interesting and important every
day,” Netanyahu said.
Separately the cabinet extended the tenure
of Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fisher for an additional term. It
approved long-term rent subsidies for 650 residential units for new
immigrants, with a particular focus on the elderly and on single-parent
It also agreed to ban fishing in the Sea of Galilee for two years to prevent fish there from becoming extinct.