PM: Divided J’lem ‘suffocates,’ united city ‘blossoms’

In special Jerusalem Day Knesset session, Livni slams politicization of capital city, Rivlin says J’lem still treated like a divided city.

Netanyahu Jerusalem Day 311 (photo credit: Tal Cohen)
Netanyahu Jerusalem Day 311
(photo credit: Tal Cohen)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu emphasized the importance of Jerusalem’s unity during a special Knesset plenum session on Wednesday, Jerusalem Day.
“Like many Israelis, many Knesset members are too young to remember how Jerusalem looked when it was divided, when there was a wall four-stories high in the middle of Jaffa Road,” the prime minister said.
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Before the Six Day War, Netanyahu explained, Jerusalem was “suffocating, a city that did not develop, that was frozen.”
“That changed after Jerusalem was united under Israeli sovereignty,” the prime minister said. “Jerusalem is breathing and blossoming. Jerusalem is developing as one city.”
Netanyahu cited new developments in Jerusalem, including a train line into the capital and a biotechnology center, and said that much-needed new schools were being built in Arab neighborhoods.
“All this secures the future of Jerusalem,” he said. “We often talk about the city’s past, but we need to appreciate what is being done in the present.”
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni said the entire nation was united with Jerusalem in 1967, and that the capital city “should not be turned into a campaign slogan.”
“There should not be a ‘their’ Jerusalem and an ‘our’ Jerusalem,” Livni said.
“The love of Jerusalem is not only for Orthodox people. All Jews have a prayer for Jerusalem in their heart,” she said. “Jerusalem is not just a part of our past, it’s a feeling that unites all of Israel around its capital.”
Responding to the prime minister’s claim that most MKs were too young to remember that day, Livni said that she was nine years old during the Six Day War, and “even then we knew how momentous this day was, and were part of the collective feeling of national redemption, although we were young.”
At the same time, Livni said, “tough questions” need to be asked about Jerusalem.
“What is our dream for the future? What is our collective vision? Is there a wall in the heart of the city, or is there a wall in our hearts?” Livni said that the security barrier, which crosses through part of Jerusalem, “separates and alienates” parts of Israeli society.
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin told the Knesset that “dividing Jerusalem will not solve its problems; dividing Jerusalem would mean we’re running away from finding serious and real solutions.”
“Some try to paint Jerusalem as a city of the past, without a future, a city of minorities, a city of Arabs and haredim, a so-called city without Israelis,” Rivlin said.
“We promised that Jerusalem would be united, but we did not fulfill our promise. We built the City of David and Ma’aleh Hazeitim, but what about Ras el-Amud and Wadi Joz?” Rivlin cited the shortage in classrooms and problems with mail delivery in east Jerusalem, saying that half of the city did not enjoy benefits as the rest of it did.
“A united Jerusalem will not be built if we do not build it as one city,” the Knesset speaker said.
In related news, the Knesset on Wednesday approved an amendment to a bill making Jerusalem a zone in which students who recently finished their IDF service would receive increased financial aid. Previously, the aid was provided to those studying in colleges and universities in Ashkelon, the West Bank, the Negev and the Galilee.