Israel ‘Emphatically’ Rejects US, European Call to Stop Building in Jerusalem

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his comments on Sunday. Photo courtesy of Haim Zach (Israeli GPO).

On Friday, the United States State Department mentioned building homes in Israel’s Biblical heartland in the same breath as terrorism, and on Sunday, Israel had a firm response. “We emphatically reject the pressures not to build in Jerusalem,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in comments released by his office. “Unfortunately, these pressures have been increasing of late. I say to our best friends as well: Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Just as every people builds its capital and in its capital, so too do we reserve the right to build Jerusalem and in Jerusalem. This is what we have done and what we will continue to do.”

The rebuttal to Israeli allies followed statements from the US and major European nations opposing construction in “settlements”—referring to lands claimed by the Palestinians that traditionally includes eastern Jerusalem—with the Europeans in their joint statement last Thursday specifically mentioning locations such as the Givat HaMatos community in the Israeli capital. Meanwhile, the strong but diplomatically-worded American comments came in response to Palestinian riots in Jerusalem on Friday that left 18 Israeli Police Officers injured and resulted in a non-lethal confrontation atop the Temple Mount.

While the US tried to appear balanced by calling on “all sides” to “exercise restraint” and condemned an attack on Israeli soldiers, spokesperson Ned Price’s words also highlighted the dramatic shift in tone towards Israel by the Biden Administration from the previously friendly Trump government.

“As we have consistently said, it is critical to avoid steps that exacerbate tensions or take us farther away from peace,” said Price in comments released by the State Department. “This includes evictions in East Jerusalem, settlement activity, home demolitions, and acts of terrorism.”

The surprising equivocation between murder and building homes in locations such as Israel’s capital comes after Palestinian riots reached a boiling point on Friday. The Israeli Police Twitter feed reported that on Friday night “hundreds of rioters threw stones and fired fireworks at police forces near the Temple Mount. Following the disturbances, the district commander ordered the forces to enter and act to restore order. Some of the rioters were fortified in mosques and later evacuated. During the clashes, 18 policemen were injured, some of whom were evacuated to the hospital for treatment.”

The series of Twitter posts, written in Hebrew and translated by Google, went on to include a quote from the Police that emphasized “that the right to protest will be preserved, but riots will be answered firmly and with zero tolerance” and called upon “everyone to act responsibly and with restraint.”

Prior to Friday’s escalation, ongoing Palestinian riots in Jerusalem and back-and-forth fighting between terrorists in Gaza and the IDF had already heated up the Palestinian conflict with Israel. In the midst of that, the Foreign Ministries of France, Germany, Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom decided to issue a one-sided statement condemning Israeli “settlement advancement” in the communities of Har Homa—which lies between Jerusalem and Bethlehem—and Givat HaMatos. The European diplomats also called for a Jerusalem that is the capital of both Israel and a yet-to-be-formed Palestinian state.

Included in the European comments and highlighted at length by the American words was the ongoing Israeli court case on a potential eviction of Palestinians from the Shimon Hatzaddik neighborhood in Jerusalem, which the US and Europe referred to by its Arab name of Sheikh Jarrah. The Times of Israel reported that the ongoing court case, which has been used as motivation for Palestinian violence, has been delayed as long as June 8 for further review by the Israeli Attorney General.

The case focuses on an Israeli law that seeks to return lands to Jews that was taken by Arabs during the Jordanian occupation of Jerusalem in 1948.

The joint comments by the European states made no explicit mention of Palestinian violence, although it did “call on both sides to refrain from any unilateral action and resume a credible and meaningful dialogue, to advance efforts for the two state solution and an end to the conflict.”

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in a series of Twitter posts on Saturday, summed up recent Palestinian violence not referenced by the Europeans and only lightly noted by the Americans.

“Numerous incidences of violence and terrorism in recent days are the result of incitement by the [Palestinian Authority] and terrorist organizations. The reckless incitement has led to disruptions to public order, riots, an attempted terrorist attack at the Salem checkpoint, a shooting at Tapuah junction, violence at Damascus Gate, and arson balloon launches from Gaza,” said the Israeli tweets.

“Israel maintains freedom of worship in Jerusalem for all groups and religions and will ensure that Muslims, Jews and Christians are able to continue to worship during the upcoming holidays. Israel will continue to protect Jerusalem’s residents and visitors and will not allow clashes and disruptions in the city.”

Netanyahu, in his comments on Sunday, emphasized the importance of Jerusalem to Israel—and as a result of Israel’s support, the preservation of its importance to the rest of the world.

“Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for thousands of years. Our roots in Jerusalem go back to Biblical times. Our continuous link with Jerusalem has been maintained in all generations,” said Netanyahu.

“…When one looks back over thousands of years of Jewish rule and the foreign rule, and today again under the state of the Jews, only under the sovereignty of Israel has full and consistent freedom of worship been ensured for all faiths, and thus we will continue.”

(By Joshua Spurlock,, May 9, 2021)

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