Friday, May 22, 2009

Jerusalem Holy Sites Will Remain Israeli Forever

Haaretz Service and News Agencies

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Thursday that all of Jerusalem would always remain under Israeli sovereignty, in comments likely to spark consternation among Palestinians who hope to make the city the capital of a future state.

"Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people, a city reunified so as never again to be divided," Netanyahu said at a ceremony to mark Jerusalem Day in the city's Mercaz Harav yeshiva. "Our people's unparalleled affinity to Jerusalem has spanned thousands of years, and is at the basis of our national renaissance. It has united our people, secular and religious people alike."

...Earlier on Thursday, Netanyahu said similar things at a state ceremony to mark the day.

"United Jerusalem is Israel's capital. Jerusalem was always ours and will always be ours. It will never again be partitioned and divided," Netanyahu said. [see full remarks below]

Netanyahu said he had made the same declaration during his recent visit to Washington, where he met with United States President Barack Obama over the peace process and Iran's nuclear program.

"Only under Israeli sovereignty will united Jerusalem ensure the freedom of religion and freedom of access for the three religions to the holy places," Netanyahu added.

...Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin also spoke at the ceremony at Mercaz Harav. He said that Israeli sovereignty of Jerusalem is not negotiable.

"The world must recognize our sovereignty, as well as the primacy of the Jewish people in the holy sites, as our inalienable right," Rivlin said.

...In his speech, Netanyahu echoed remarks made by President Shimon Peres, who said earlier at the ceremony that, "Israel will never have another capital other than Jerusalem, and Jerusalem will never be the capital of another people."

Peres stressed that Jerusalem was and remained Israel's capital, and spoke of the days before the Six Day war when Jews had limited access to the Old City.

"When Jerusalem was in non-Jewish hands, the Jews weren't allowed to pray at the holy sites; but under Jewish control, it is open to all faiths, and all prayers," he said.

And the Ynet report:

"Unified Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Jerusalem always has been and always will be ours and it will never be divided again," said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to the sounds of roaring applause.

"I stand here today… saying what I said in my visit to the US: Jerusalem will never be divided again. Only Israeli sovereignty over the city would ensure the freedom of religion for the three faiths, and it is the only thing that can guarantee that all minorities and congregations could continue living in it," he said.

...President Shimon Peres took the stage before Netanyahu, saying that Jerusalem is the only capital Israel and the Jewish people have ever known.

"Jerusalem's greatness does not stem from its geography, but rather from its history. No other city in the world has created such an abundance of spiritual and political history.

"Jerusalem is held sacred by half of mankind. It has and always will be Israel's capital. We never had another and it has never been the capital of any other people."

", on this formidable hill we have to look around and say the achievement is as great as the pain. The men who have fallen here saved the most precious thing in our history – they saved Jerusalem."


NGO: PA lying about Jews' ties to J'lem

The Palestinian Authority has unleashed an "unprecedented barrage of lies" negating Judaism's connection to Jerusalem, as part of a ongoing campaign to undermine the Jewish connection to the capital, an Israeli media watchdog group said on Thursday.

"Jerusalem is presented as a Muslim city, with no regard for historical reality," the Palestinian Media Watch report said. "Mention is made of the importance of Jerusalem for Christians, but Judaism has no place in the city."

The report, which was made public as Israel celebrated the 42nd anniversary of the reunification of the capital, cites top Muslim religious leaders in the city, ministers from the Fatah-run PA government in the West Bank as well as official Palestinian television denying any Jewish connection to Jerusalem.

...the PA is continuing to pursue an "alarmist" campaign of "denunciation and demonization" by presenting as fact the "incendiary libel" that Israel is trying to destroy the Aksa Mosque as part of a "Judaization" of the city, the report said...


Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Netanyahu's position on Jerusalem was a setback to the goal of a two-state solution, which is strongly supported by the Obama administration.

"Mr. Netanyahu, by saying that, he's saying the state of conflict will be eternal," Erekat said.

Netanyahu wants talks with Palestinians to focus on shoring up their economy and improving security in the West Bank instead of tackling thorny issues like the status of Jerusalem, the fate of Palestinian refugees and final borders.

Palestinians reject this approach, saying the renewal of peace negotiations with Israel hinges on Netanyahu publicly endorsing Palestinian statehood and halting settlement activity.

The statement by Netanyahu on Jerusalem was similar to one made by Obama during last year's U.S. presidential campaign.

In a speech to a pro-Israel lobby group last June, Obama said Jerusalem "will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided."


Not much for Arabs to celebrate on Jerusalem Day

Patrick Martin

Today, the 28th day of the Hebrew month of Iyar, is celebrated by Israelis as Jerusalem Day. By this, they refer to the unification or “re-unification” of the city, by the capture of its eastern neighbourhoods, including the Old City, from Jordanian forces during the Six-Day War of 1967.

For a so-called “unified city,” it’s not hard to tell one side of town from the other.

For one thing, the Jewish side is far bigger than the Arab side. Some 492,400 Jews live on their, western, side (about 65 per cent of the population), including several new neighbourhoods built on land that was captured in 1967. Some 268,400 Arabs live on their eastern side.

The comments aren't working for that Paul Martin piece, so I sent him this:

Two quick comments on your "Not much for Arabs to celebrate on Jerusalem Day":

a) the true Arab demographic essence was the move of tens of thousands over the decades since 1967 to Jerusalem from Hebron & Ramallah in the main. The Arabs can't claim that Israel has no right to administer "their" Jerusalem" on the one hand, and yet on the other assert that they have a demographic 'ace-in-the-hole'. If Israel still declares its continued rule over portions of East Jerusalem but simply redraws the municipal boundary this way or that, poof!, no more demographic problem. It's just a matter of allowing them pilgrimage to the Haram.

b) and regarding that pilgrimage to the Haram, what would happen if Israel duplicated the 19 years of Jordanian rule over Jerusalem: destruction of graves, synagogues, homes, prohibiting access to Western Wall, etc.?


Netanyahu's Remarks at Ammunition Hill Memorial Ceremony:

Honorable President, Mr. Shimon Peres,
Honorable Speaker of the Knesset, Mr. Reuven Rivlin,
President of the Supreme Court, Justice Dorit Beinish,
Ministers, Members of Knesset,
Chairman of the Opposition,
Israel's Chief Rabbi, Yona Metzger,
Chief of the General Staff, Maj. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi,
Dear Bereaved Families,
IDF Fighters and their Families,
Distinguished Guests,

Last night I returned to Jerusalem, our capital, from a very important visit to Washington, capital of the United States. It was very important for me to come back to participate in this ceremony and say the same things I said in the United States:

United Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Jerusalem has always been – and always will be – ours. It will never again be divided or cut in half. Jerusalem will remain only under Israel's sovereignty. In united Jerusalem, the freedom of worship and freedom of access for all three religions to the holy sites will be guaranteed, and it is the only way to guarantee that members of all faiths, minorities and denominations can continue living here safely.

Distinguished guests,

For nineteen years Jerusalem was a wounded city; a city at the heart of which were barbed wires and minefields, firing posts and "no-man's lands"; a city whose main streets were covered with defensive walls against snipers; a city whose residents could not move freely from place to place. In June 1967, this situation changed forever. It changed in this place, on Ammunition Hill, and in other heroic battles inside Jerusalem.

You, fighters for the liberation of Jerusalem, with your bodies and with the blood of your comrades, pried open the chokehold, united the city together, and allowed Jerusalem to be reopened once again as a lively, vibrant city.

I enlisted shortly after the liberation of Jerusalem and I met with one of the fighters, who is here with us today, Nir Nitzan. He did not voluntarily tell us; we had to repeatedly ask him to tell us what happened here, in that battle. Ultimately, quietly, shortly, dryly even, he told us a little of what took place here on that day, and we, as youngsters, stood in awe of the greatness of spirit, solidarity and sacrifice of those fighters who fought here, and the many others who fought in other places. The fighters who fell instilled pride in our people and gave us back our capital. As a boy, that day was etched in my memory. I remember the elation following the words of Motta Gur, when we heard the news on the radio and Motta Gur announced: "Har Habayit is in our hands!" The excitement we felt was something neither we nor any other Jew experienced for generations. It lifted the hearts of Jews all over the world.

Another remarkable thing happened: thousands, thousands of Israeli citizens, not only from Jerusalem, but from all over the country, rushed in masses into the Old City, passing through roads that were previously blocked, places we were never allowed to set foot in, through barbed wires, along the now shattered separation walls, climbing rocks and entering into back alleys – all of us heading towards the same place: the Western Wall. I remember that the square was narrow – in fact, there was no square at all – and the place was too narrow to contain the large masses, and each of us waited our turn to arrive at that ancient wall. I remember the beating of my heart and the exhilaration I felt when I first touched the stones of the Western Wall, thinking about King David, King Solomon, Israel's prophets and kings and the Maccabim. I thought about the people of Israel throughout the generations, as did the thousands of Israelis who arrived there. The liberation of Jerusalem and the Western Wall marked for all of us the deep connection to the roots of Jewish history. We felt that the dream of generations had finally come true.

Thousands of years ago, a Psalms poet wrote: "built-up Jerusalem is like a city that is united together". It is as if this song was written now about the events of our generation.

Look around you and see how Jerusalem is built, how it is connected, how it grows and develops to the east and west, north and south. Jews, Muslims and Christians, religious and secular, ultra-orthodox and conservatives live here in peace and good neighborly relations.

Look around you and see how vibrant and full of life Jerusalem is, during the day and night. The houses of prayer and synagogues are filled, as are the caf├ęs and recreational places.

But Jerusalem is not only a city of the day-to-day or night life. It is first and foremost a city of sanctity, a city of vision, a city of prayer; the eyes of the entire world are fixed on Jerusalem. As Isaiah prophesized: "it will happen in the end of days: The mountain of the Temple of the Almighty will be firmly established as the head of the mountains, and it will be exalted above the hills, and all the nations will stream to it…for from Zion will the Torah come forth, and the word of the Almighty from Jerusalem".

Since the unification of Jerusalem under Israel's flag, this prophecy has been gradually coming true. Never, in the thousands of years of its history, has Jerusalem been so great and remarkable, never did it have such freedom of worship for members of all faiths and such free access to all places of worship. Pilgrims, believers and visitors from all ends of the universe visit Jerusalem every day.

Our connection to Jerusalem is thousands of years old. As a people, we have never relinquished "the apple of our eye", the object of our prayers, our nation's capital, Jerusalem. Today, as a state, we are fulfilling this age-old yearning, this ancient wish.

The greatest hardships, exiles and difficulties in history could never dissuade us from pursuing the realization of the Jewish people's dream of generations – the establishment of a state in the land of Israel, with Jerusalem as its capital. This was the wish of every Jew in exile, at every community and in every prayer: "next year in built-up Jerusalem". I believe that only the reuniting of Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty would enable us to quickly fulfill the second part of Isaiah's prophecy: "they shall beat their swords into plowshares…nation will not lift sword against nation and they will no longer learn how to wage warfare".

This is our prayer, and this is our hope here in Jerusalem.

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