PM Netanyahu vows Israel ‘will continue to build in our capital’ Jerusalem, and reiterate positions on several key issues, just a day prior to US President Trump’s visit to Israel’s reunited capital.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed on Sunday that Israel would continue to build in “our capital” Jerusalem, declaring his country’s unquestionable sovereignty over the entirety of the city, including east Jerusalem and its holy sites such as the Western Wall and Temple Mount.
Netanyahu was speaking at a ceremony ahead of Jerusalem Day, which commemorates the re-unification of the city following the 1967 Six Day War in which Israel annexed east Jerusalem in a move not recognized by the international community.
“Fifty years ago, we didn’t occupy, we liberated; by the heroism of our warriors and the love of our people, Jerusalem was liberated,” said Netanyahu. “Tonight, I say to the whole world and in the clearest way possible, Jerusalem was and will always be the capital of Israel.
“The Temple Mount and the Western Wall will always remain under Israeli sovereignty.”
— Mayor Nir Barkat (@NirBarkat) May 21, 2017
Netanyahu’s remarks apparently reiterated his position on several key issues just days ahead of a visit by US President Donald Trump, whose White House has sparked questions in recent weeks over its approach to the ultra-sensitive status of the city.
US-Israel relations hit a bump during preparations for Trump’s visit, when a senior member of a US delegation reportedly snapped at Israeli counterparts that the Western Wall is “not your territory” and is “part of the West Bank.”
Trump will be the first sitting president to visit the Western Wall, part of the Temple Mount complex revered by Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif compound, which includes the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock.
Top US officials have reportedly warned Trump not to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital during his upcoming visit, for fear that it could ruin the peace process, CNN said Tuesday, echoing recommendations from leaders in the region.
The event, which included an audiovisual show which lit up brilliantly the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City, was attended by Israeli lawmakers and ministers, as well as former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and new US Ambassador David Friedman.
Speaking at the ceremony, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely called Jerusalem “the heart of the Jewish People” and said that she hoped the Trump administration would make good on its promise to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, in a move that would break with decades of precedent and essentially recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.
(English captions available…click on ‘gear’)
“We all hope to see the US embassy in Jerusalem but it is no less important to see a renewal of construction in Judea and Samaria after years of stagnation under the previous administration,” Hotovely said, using the biblical name for the lands commonly known as the West Bank and drawing a sharp contrast between Trump and his predecessor, Barack Obama.
“The Trump administration is the first US administration to emphasize that settlements are not an obstacle to peace. It is important, therefore, that we proceed with construction. Kindergartens, schools and homes of Jewish families are not preventing peace. On the contrary, they represent the renewal of life in the Land of Israel,” she said.
Both Trump and Friedman have said that they do not consider settlement construction to be an obstacle to peace. But Trump told Netanyahu during a meeting in February that he would like to see Israel “hold off” until their governments could establish a mutually agreeable policy on the matter.
Discussions between the two governments fell through and were suspended last month with no such agreement struck.
Since Trump’s inauguration on January 20, Trump’s policy towards Israel and the Palestinians has been in flux.
While Trump has articulated support for peace between the two sides, he has yet to explicitly endorse the creation of a fledgling Palestinian state, or join the international consensus supporting a two-state solution.
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