Ceding control of part of Jerusalem will not bring peace but rather could result in a religious war, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday, during a ceremony marking the 45th anniversary of the city’s reunification.
Comparing the city to the nation’s heart, Netanyahu promised to keep the city as a unified whole.
“Israel without Jerusalem is like a body without a heart. And our heart will never be divided again,” he said during a ceremony at the city’s Ammunition Hill, site of a major battle in the Six-Day War. “There are those who believe that if we only divide Jerusalem, and that means giving up the Temple Mount, they believe we will have peace. I am doubtful, to say the least, that if we deposit that square of the Temple Mount with other forces, that we won’t quickly deteriorate to a religious sectarian war.”
The words seemed a pointed rebuff to his predecessor, Ehud Olmert, who called for the city to be redivided in an interview published Sunday in the Maariv daily, and who offered to divide the city in a 2008 peace proposal to the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Olmert was mayor of Jerusalem from 1993 to 2003.
Netanyahu opened his speech by pointing out that, during prayer, Jews the world over face Jerusalem, “a place which has always been the center of our lives, that reminds us of our glorious past and the future that is at the heart of our hopes.”
“For 45 years we have developed and built Jerusalem and will continue to build it,” the prime minister said.
Netanyahu added that keeping the whole city Israeli would benefit all three major religions which consider Jerusalem holy.
“Only under Israeli sovereignty will the quiet be kept,” he said. “Religious peace was only ever preserved under Israeli rule. A lasting peace is only possible when a nation is strong… A nation willing to sacrifice its heart will convince its enemies that it is willing to give up on everything.”