TEL AVIV – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday vowed that all parts of Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount and Western Wall, will forever remain under Israeli sovereignty, and added that President Donald Trump’s visit to the Wall “destroyed UNESCO’s propaganda and lies.”
“We liberated Jerusalem, we made it one city, imperfect but whole,” Netanyahu told Knesset members at a special plenum for Jerusalem Day marking 50 years since the reunification of the capital during the Six Day War.
Earlier this month, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) passed a resolution disavowing Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem and ignoring Jewish ties to the religion’s holiest sites.
Before the arrival of the Jews in Jerusalem, the city was “forsaken and in constant crisis,” the prime minister said. When it was divided during the first two decades of the state’s existence, Jerusalem had “next to nothing.”
“We will never return to that situation” of a divided Jerusalem, he pledged. “The Temple Mount and the Western Wall will forever remain under Israeli sovereignty.”
After Netanyahu spoke, opposition leader Isaac Herzog delivered a damning rebuttal. Herzog told the audience, which included President Reuven Rivlin and Chief Supreme Court Justice Miriam Naor, that Netanyahu was missing a “historic” opportunity for peace.
He said Israel should separate itself from the Arab neighborhoods in the eastern part of the city.
“Mr. Prime Minister, this is the time to go to a brave and historic process to separate from the Palestinians and the implementation of the vision of two states for two peoples. This is the time, 50 years on from the Six Day War, to shake off the heavy burden of millions of Palestinians and ensure the continued existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and homeland of the Jewish people for generations,” he stated, vowing his party’s political support for peace talks.
“This is the time for leadership, not defeatism, the time to lead and not be led,” he added.
“I urge you, Prime Minister, not to miss the opportunity,” Herzog said. “Don’t allow your name to go down in the history books of the State of Israel as the prime minister who missed the greatest opportunity that Israel has known to avoid 50 more years of tears and bereavement.”
Herzog added that there were far more pressing matters in Jerusalem than the presence of the U.S. embassy there.
“Therefore, will all due respect, it is not the U.S. embassy that is the more important thing the city is lacking, but rather tools and resources and significant decisions on changing directions,” he stated.
The prime minister later reiterated his belief that moving all embassies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was “not a trivial matter.”
“The current situation is absurd,” Netanyahu said.
The prime minister also defended earlier remarks comparing the Manchester bomber to Palestinian terrorists, in which he said that if the attacker were Palestinian, he would have received a financial reward from the Palestinian Authority.
“The root of the matter is the stubborn, violent refusal of the Palestinian side to accept the Jewish state — and the capital of the Jews — in any borders,” he said. “Everything else is interesting, important, and certainly open for discussion and dialogue. These are the basic facts.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Deputy Minister Tzipi Hotovely called on Jews to ascend the Temple Mount, one day after she appealed to Trump to go ahead with his campaign promise to relocate the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.