Israel has an older connection to Jerusalem than France has to Paris, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared in Sunday’s Cabinet meeting, as he rejected claims from the Palestinians that Israel has no historic link to the Temple Mount in the holy city. Netanyahu’s comments, published by Israel, come as Israel last week marked the annual “Jerusalem Day” celebration of the reunification of the city by Israel during the 1967 Six Day War.
“The deep ties between the Jewish People and Jerusalem is one that has no parallel among the nations,” said Netanyahu. “Jerusalem was our capital around 1,100 years before London became the capital of England, approximately 1,800 years before Paris became the capital of France and around 2,800 years before Washington DC became the capital of the US.
“For over 100 generations, Jews expressed their special yearning for Jerusalem in prayers that are repeated three times a day and under the wedding canopy… In contrast to what [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] said several days ago, we were here thousands of years ago and will still be here thousands of years from now.”
The Israeli leader emphasized Jerusalem as the united capital of Israel, contrasting with Abbas who has claimed Palestinian ownership of the older eastern side of the city, which contains the Temple Mount where two Jewish temples stood and the capital city of King David. But Netanyahu wasn’t just countering Abbas’ allegations, which were made last week at the United Nations. He was sending the Palestinian leader a message both with his words and where they were said—in the historic first century tunnels beneath the Western Wall.
“To get his attention, today we are holding a special Cabinet meeting in honor of Jerusalem Day at the foot of the Temple Mount upon which King Solomon built the First Temple of the Jewish People, and which is—again to get [Abbas’] attention—the heart of the historical State of Israel, the City of David, and has been here for 3,000 years.”
Netanyahu went on to note steps taken by governments he has led over the years to reinforce the unity of Israel’s capital city: from building up new neighborhoods such as Har Homa, to efforts culminating in the United State’s official recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, to steps taken on Sunday to budget funds for development of Israel’s Old City. He also pointed to the future, where Israel plans a cable car to improve access to the Western Wall that will be “a unique and special experience for both Israelis and overseas tourists.” On a grander scale, he also said that additional national embassies will move to Jerusalem and “it will not take a very long time.”
On the same day as his comments, a separate Israeli press release announced an increase of approximately 60 million shekels ($16.44 million) for Western Wall’s “Five-Year Plan” for upgrading infrastructure and enhancing visits to the site. The press release said the funding is a “response to the increased pace of development work and construction being carried out at the site, as well as the discovery of archaeological finds, increased visits by students and soldiers and the implementation of additional educational activities.”
In the Cabinet meeting Netanyahu listed a range of projects to improve Jerusalem, including extending the light rail and building out the quarter at the entrance to the city that will “give a major push to commerce, employment, housing, culture and recreation.” And efforts to strengthen the city are important, because the 1967 war didn’t conclude the battle for Jerusalem.
“Fifty-six years ago, in the Six Day War, we unified Jerusalem. But I must say that the fight for its unity has not ended. Time and again, my friends and I have been forced to repel international pressure on the part of those who would divide Jerusalem again,” he warned.
As a Jerusalemite since he was two days-old, Netanyahu not only has memories of the city’s history, but also perspective on where it is going. Said the Israeli leader, “I remember Jerusalem and it is changing daily. It has wonderful things that do not change but there are also great and powerful changes that are bursting with momentum, imagination and hope.”
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, May 21, 2023)