Netanyahu made the remarks in a cabinet meeting at the Western Wall Tunnels, honoring Jerusalem Day, to mark Israel’s reunification of the city and liberation of the Old City in 1967.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a cabinet meeting next to the Western Wall, May 21, 2023 / (photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
The Jewish people have been in Jerusalem for thousands of years and will remain for thousands more, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday, responding to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s recent claim that Israel is lying about its historic ties to the city.
“Abbas said days ago at the UN that the Jewish people has no connection to the Temple Mount and that east Jerusalem is part of the Palestinian Authority,” Netanyahu said. “Well, it should be brought to his attention that we are holding a special cabinet meeting in honor of Jerusalem at the foot of the Temple Mount that on which King Solomon built the First Temple of the Jewish people, and again, it should be brought to Abbas’s attention, the heart of the historic State of Israel, the City of David, was here 3,000 years ago.”
Netanyahu made the remarks in a cabinet meeting at the Western Wall Tunnels, honoring Jerusalem Day, celebrated last Thursday to mark Israel’s reunification of the city and liberation of the Old City in 1967. The cabinet approved a NIS 60 million budget increase for the Western Wall over the next five years, to upgrade infrastructure and encourage visits to the holy site, as well as archaeology and educational activities.
Abbas claimed at the UN event in honor of “Nakba Day,” marking the “catastrophe” of Israel’s establishment, that Israel “dug under al-Aqsa… they dug everywhere, and they could not find anything.”
“The ownership of al-Buraq Wall [the Western Wall] and al-Haram al-Sharif [Temple Mount] belongs exclusively and only to the Islamic Wakf alone,” he added.
The Temple Mount in Jerusalem. / (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
The Temple Mount, is the holiest site in Judaism and the third-holiest to Muslims. Al-Aksa is the mosque on the Mount. The Western Wall is a retaining wall of the Mount, dating to the Second Temple.
Netanyahu said that Jerusalem was the Jewish capital 1,100 years before London was the capital of England, 1,800 years before Paris was the capital of France and 2,800 years before Washington D.C. was the capital of the US.
“For 100 generation Jews expressed the special yearning of our people for Jerusalem in three prayers a day and under every wedding canopy,” the prime minister said.
The battle for Jerusalem didn’t end in 1967
The battle for Jerusalem did not end in 1967, he added, saying that he and others have to beat back international pressure on the matter regularly.
“Some prime ministers were willing to give in to these pressures…We acted differently…I am proud of the great merit I had to build new neighborhoods in Jerusalem like Har Homa, Givat HaMatos and Maaleh HaZeitim, in which tens of thousands of Israelis live. We did this under massive international pressure and we stood up to that pressure,” Netanyahu said.
The three neighborhoods the prime minister mentioned are over the 1949 armistice line, known as the Green Line, and were subject to international condemnations.
Netanyahu also said he is proud that the US embassy moved to Jerusalem while he was prime minister and promised more countries will follow suit.
The Reform Movement said that the budget increase for the Western Wall was discriminatory.
“The Western Wall [is] a place that is supposed to be for the entire Jewish people in all of its streams, but in reality includes a [gender] separated plaza that functions as a haredi synagogue in accordance to how the rabbi of the Kotel’s view,” the movement stated. “The egalitarian section, which serves many from Israel and abroad does not get government funding…The time has come to fix this discrimination and understand that there is more than one way to be Jewish, including at the Western Wall.”