MKs divided over united Jerusalem

If the Knesset deputy speakers were any indication of public sentiment, the future of unified J'lem would be uncertain at best.

Jerusalem 88 (photo credit: )
Jerusalem 88
(photo credit: )
If the Knesset deputy speakers were any indication of public sentiment, the future of unified Jerusalem would be uncertain at best. All of the deputy speakers from the opposition and one from the coalition were absent from a meeting held on Tuesday afternoon at the City of David Archeological Park ahead of Jerusalem Day, which will be celebrated on Thursday. "There is no other nation in the world that can show such clear evidence of their past attachments like the Jewish nation," Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) said at the site. "We liberated Jerusalem in 1967 and conquered it only once, in the days of King David." The event was also attended by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and coalition chairman Ze'ev Elkin (Likud), and deputy Knesset Speakers Danny Danon (Likud), Uri Maklev (United Torah Judaism), Alex Miller (Israel Beiteinu) and Carmel Shama (Likud), as well as Knesset secretary Eyal Inon and Knesset legal adviser Nurit Elstein. Conspicuously absent, however, were Deputy Knesset Speakers Yuli Tamir (Labor), Ruhama Avraham-Balila (Kadima), Majallie Whbee (Kadima) and Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al). Only Tibi admitted to avoiding the meeting as part of a political boycott. Instead, his faction held a protest in the neighboring Arab neighborhood of Silwan. During that protest, Tibi described the settlements as "a growth that needs to be removed." MK Uri Ariel (National Union) appealed to the Knesset Ethics Committee to examine whether Tibi's comments violated the rules against incitement to racism. The other deputy speakers all claimed prior engagements, although sources close to Tamir - the only coalition deputy speaker absent - said she was uncomfortable with the forum. Rivlin said during the meeting that Whbee had expressed support for the meeting as well as for its symbolism, but had a prior commitment in Jordan. Miller criticized legislators who had spoken out against the institution of Jerusalem Day in law, saying that "anybody who doesn't support legislation to anchor Jerusalem Day and the centrality of Jerusalem should leave the Knesset." Rivlin indirectly responded to him moments later, responding to questions about Tibi's absence. "We are a free people in our country, and everyone may do what they believe as long as they act according to the law." Meanwhile, during the visit to the archeological site, Rivlin struck a note of coexistence, pressing Barkat to work to "rehabilitate" the refugees in east Jerusalem refugee camps, such as Shuafat, arguing that "there is no place in the undivided capital of Israel for refugee camps." Rivlin also spoke out against the proposed division of the capital between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, describing it as "a formula that will turn Jerusalem into a second Belfast."