'We have a right to build in our eternal capital'

Netanyahu, Rivlin, Livni commemorate the memory of assassinated tourism minister Rehavam Ze’evi in the Knesset.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in the Knesset 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in the Knesset 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu emphasized Israel’s right to build and expand Jerusalem undivided during a ceremony on Wednesday in memory of tourism minister Rehavam “Gandhi” Ze’evi, who was assassinated 10 years ago.
Ze’evi’s “life began in Jerusalem and ended in Jerusalem. That was Gandi – a man of Jerusalem,” Netanyahu explained, speaking in the Knesset’s plenum.
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“All who love Jerusalem should learn from Gandhi,” the prime minister said. “We must protect its unity, stop those who try to rewrite its history, and remind the world over and over again that Jerusalem was never the capital of any other nation.
“Over thousands of years in exile, the Jewish people prayed to return to Jerusalem,” he recounted, quoting the Psalm: “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, may my right hand whither.”
Netanyahu called on Israel to “always remember that the work of strengthening and developing Jerusalem will never end. This is our historical and national responsibility.”
The prime minister’s comments came the day after he announced that there would be increased construction in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, a move widely seen as the government’s reaction to the Palestinian Authority’s acceptance as a state to UN cultural body UNESCO.
“We have the right to build in our eternal capital,” he said. “It is our privilege and responsibility for this generation and the next – not as punishment, but as a basic right.”
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and opposition leader MK Tzipi Livni focused on Ze’evi’s leadership.
“There are special people to whom the usual clichés don’t apply. They test our norms; they never compromise,” Rivlin said. “Rehavam Ze’evi is one of those people.
“He expressed unpopular opinions and symbolized the extreme end of the political map, demanding that anyone who spoke to him would be faithful to the truth. He feared only hypocrites, opportunists and those lacking a spine,” the Knesset Speaker said.
“Any of us can find ourselves one day at the extreme end of the political conversation, alone and constantly criticized. However, not all of us would stick to the truth the way Gandhi did. Many of us would prefer to remain silent, because the political price is too high,” Rivlin told MKs.
“Gandhi represented the type of leadership that we don’t see today,” Livni said.
“He led according to his beliefs, and did not change according to the public’s mood and trends.
“We need leadership that makes decisions for the good of the people’s future,” the Kadima chairwoman said.
“Gandhi said he puts the moledet [homeland] before Moledet, the political party.
“When we all understand that the homeland comes before Likud and Kadima and Meretz and Shas and all the others, then the public’s faith in politics will return,” Livni said.
MK Arye Eldad (National Union), a member of the Moledet party at the time of Ze’evi’s assassination, criticized those who spoke before him for not mentioning his political views.
Eldad quoted various interviews with Ze’evi, mentioning that the tourism minister believed that “Arabia is the land of Arabs, Judea is the land of the Jews,” and that “Zionism is an ideology of transfer.”
“Gandhi saw the establishment of a Palestinian state as gambling our existence,” the National Union MK explained. “There is only one solution: A Jewish state to the west of the Jordan River, a Palestinian state to the east.”
In light of the Arab Spring, Eldad said that Ze’evi’s vision is “more realistic than ever. The Jewish state should be ready to free itself of the diplomatic dead end it is stuck in.”
He also pointed out that Ze’evi wore dog-tags with the names of all missing and captive IDF soldiers, as well as of Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard.
“It would be a fulfillment of Gandhi’s legacy to bring Pollard home,” Eldad said.

Also on Wednesday, Rivlin and Netanyahu were presented with a new stamp dedicated by the Philatelic Service in Ze’evi’s honor.
Ze’evi was a Palmah fighter and IDF major-general who founded the Moledet party in 1988, which was known for advocating a “transfer” of Palestinians out of Israel.
He was shot in 2001 at the Jerusalem Hyatt hotel by gunmen from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and died of his wounds.