Gilo neighborhood 521.
(photo credit: Reuters)
Building everywhere in Jerusalem, including areas over the pre-1967 lines, is the best response to those who deny Israel’s right to exist, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday.
“The real answer,” he said, “is to continue to strengthen the State of Israel, to continue to build in Jerusalem and to continue to develop it – everywhere – without stopping.”
The prime minister spoke in the evening at a special ceremony on Ammunition Hill to mark 47 years since Jerusalem’s reunification after the 1967 Six Day War.
It was one of four emotional speeches he delivered in a 24-hour period, including in the Knesset, in which he explained that the capital was the heart of the Jewish people and must never be divided.
At a special cabinet meeting he added that he saw the building of Jerusalem as a “historical mandate” for the Jewish people.
He made his comments at a time when the US has asked both Israelis and Palestinians not to take steps that would threaten the possibly of renewed negotiations, which broke off at the end of April.
Nabil Abu Rudaineh, spokesman for PA President Mahmoud Abbas, warned that Netanyahu’s remarks about Jerusalem would place obstacles before American efforts to revive the peace talks.
There can be no peace agreement with Israel without east Jerusalem becoming the capital of the Palestinian state, Rudaineh said.
The Palestinian position was shared by Arabs and the rest of the international community, he said.
Rudaineh cautioned that Israel’s refusal to accept this position would have “grave consequences and would not contribute at all to prospects of achieving peace.”
Settlers have warned that Netanyahu’s words do not match his actions. They contend that in practice, Netanyahu has stopped the issuance of housing tenders and the advancement of building plans, both in West Bank settlements and Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem over the Green Line.
Late Wednesday night, they met with Netanyahu on this matter. It was the first time the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea and Samaria had met with the prime minister in over two years.
An Israeli official said that building work continued in all areas of Jerusalem and that Netanyahu would never agree to halt it.
Late Tuesday night, in Jerusalem’s Mercaz Harav Yeshiva, Netanyahu spoke passionately about Jerusalem’s central place in the Jewish historical and spiritual narrative.
“As we believe that our capital is the heart of our nation, it must be united... it must be connected to the great soul of eternal Israel, to the Torah and to the intellectual assets created by our sages throughout the generations.”
Both there and in the Knesset on Wednesday afternoon, he spoke of the modern city and its ancient sites.
He mentioned the neighborhoods Ramot, Gilo and Har Homa, as well as sites of historical significance like the Old City and the Mount of Olives.
At the start of the special cabinet meeting on Jerusalem, he said, “I have heard that there are those who would like to cancel this day as a national holiday. I say that this is not just a national holiday; this is a historic, national miracle.”
At that meeting, the government approved a series of decisions aimed at strengthening the capital by encouraging economic development, tourism and cultural growth.
Among the decisions garnering approval was the investment of approximately NIS 55 million to restore the Jewish Quarter’s Tiferet Yisrael synagogue, built in 1872, which was badly damaged during the War of Independence.
The restoration project is scheduled to be completed in 2017.
The Israel Lands Authority agreed to extend Shaare Zedek Medical Center’s lease agreement at no cost, and to allocate land for the further expansion of the hospital’s medical needs.
Additionally, it was agreed to invest NIS 55m. over three years to complete construction of the National Campus for the Archeology of Israel, in coordination with the Israel Antiquities Authority, which has raised over NIS 200m.
In terms of culture, NIS 31m. is to be invested in the city’s growing cultural infrastructure, including television and film production to better promote the capital.
Construction of a municipal swimming pool was also approved.