Following are Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks at the start of the festive Cabinet today , which was held in the Western Wall Tunnels, in honor of Jerusalem, and at which several decisions were made to develop and strengthen the city [translated from Hebrew]:
Several days ago, Abu Mazen told the UN that the Jewish People have no links to the Temple Mount and that eastern Jerusalem is part of the Palestinian Authority. Therefore, and 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 Abu Mazen’s attention – the heart of the historical State of Israel, the City of David, and has been here for 3,000 years.
The deep ties between the Jewish People and Jerusalem is one that has no parallel among the nations. 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.
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, and by prime ministers of Israel who were prepared to give in to those pressures, and were even prepared to concede the Jewish People’s holiest places.
We have acted differently. Not only have we not divided Jerusalem, we have built and expanded it. I am proud to have had the great privilege of building new neighborhoods in Jerusalem, such as Har Homa, Givat Hamatos and Maaleh Hazeitim, in which tens of thousands of Israelis live. We did all this together in the face of great international pressure. We stood against these pressures.
I am proud that the governments we have headed have led great expansion and development in all parts of the city, western and eastern, on behalf of its residents. I am proud that we have brought about American recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the transfer of the US and other embassies to the capital – and our hand is still extended.
I promise you that more embassies will be transferred to Jerusalem and it will not take a very long time. But the work is not over and the challenge is yet before us. There are still those who want to divide Jerusalem and they say so openly. There are those who proclaim their loyalty to the united Jerusalem but are not really prepared to fight for it at the moment of truth. Only the national camp led by us will safeguard a strong and united Jerusalem, just as we are safeguarding our security and national pride.
And therefore, on behalf of our security, our future and the unity of Jerusalem, we must continue to maintain our government, that of the national camp. You all see the difference.
Just one year ago, here in the heart of Jerusalem, we saw a disgraceful scene. Two Jewish youths hastened to take Israeli flags off their car. They had stopped at a traffic light and there was concern that a procession of Palestinians, that was protesting opposite them and waving PLO flags in the heart of Jerusalem, could injure them, like many others; we were also outraged by this.
We promised to restore our national honor – and I am keeping our promise. We did this last week with the flag march which wound its way proudly through the streets of our capital, and in Operation Shield and Arrow, which changed the equation with Islamic Jihad.
Of course, in order to continue maintaining our national government, we must pass the state budget. You know that I have a little experience in this matter, having passed almost 20 state budgets, and I can tell you that there are always last minute arguments. I believe that we will overcome them and pass the budget.
We will pass a responsible budget one of the goals of which is to equalize conditions between a haredi child to those of a secular child. Haredi children do not need to receive less than secular or religious children because a haredi child is not half a child. No Jew needs to hear the antisemitic incitement on the television channels, or see shameful caricatures in the biased media, which copy the anti-Semitic propaganda that our people has known in its darker periods. The fact is that under our government we have succeeded in integrating the Haredi sector in the labor market more than all other governments – and this we will continue to do.
This government was elected to serve out its days; therefore, I am certain that in the coming days we will bridge all of the gaps and continue to work together on behalf of all citizens of Israel, and Jerusalem.
Indeed, today the government will approve budgets for the development of the Old City and the strengthening of all of Jerusalem. We will upgrade infrastructure in the Western Wall plaza and we will improve transportation services. I have specially requested that attention be given to completing the ring road (the eastern ring road and the northern American highway), this will be major news as the great transportation news that we have brought, great news in Jerusalem and not just in Jerusalem. We will expand educational activity for children, soldiers and students and we will encourage visits to the amazing Western Wall where are now meeting.
These decisions join what we have already done on behalf of our capital. Several years ago, we initiated and began the excavation of the wonderful Har Nof tunnels and today tens of thousands of drivers use them daily. At the same time, we are extending the light rail in the city from Gilo in the south to Ramot in the north.
The quarter at the entrance to the city is being built. We all pass by it daily and see it progressing. This will give a major push to commerce, employment, housing, culture and recreation. I note that hundreds of high-tech companies are already active in Jerusalem, and we are moving forward with new initiatives to build housing.
In the coming years, we will also advance an innovative enterprise – the cable car to the Western Wall, which will allow for easier access to the area of the Western Wall and the City of David. I am certain that riding on it will be a unique and special experience for both Israelis and overseas tourists. As a Jerusalemite from the age of two days, because I was born in Tel Aviv and arrived in Jerusalem at the age of two days, 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.
I would like to thank all government ministers for joining in to benefit Jerusalem, but especially Jerusalem Affairs Minister Meir Porush, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, Mayor Moshe Lion, who is continuing the energetic work of his predecessor, Minister Nir Barkat
In contrast to what Abu Mazen said several days ago, we were here thousands of years ago and will still be here thousands of years from now.
A Happy Shavuot to the people of Israel, a happy festival to Jerusalem, the eternal united capital of the State of Israel.”
Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion and Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz attended today’s Cabinet meeting.