Jerusalem will not be divided between Arabs and Jews, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday at an official Jerusalem Day ceremony in the capital.
Jerusalem Day commemorates the capture by Israel of the city’s Jordanian-controlled half, including the religiously significant Old City and the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site, during the 1967 Six Day War, a conquest that brought the Arab half of the city’s population under Israeli control.
Speaking at a ceremony commemorating the war dead from that conflict on Jerusalem’s Ammunition Hill, the site of one of the fiercest battles in the Six Day War, Netanyahu vowed that “Jerusalem won’t become once again a wounded and bisected city. We will forever keep Jerusalem united under Israeli sovereignty.”
“On this special day it is clear to us that a divided Jerusalem is a memory. The future belongs to the complete Jerusalem that shall never again be divided,” he said.
Netanyahu’s message was not meant for Israelis’ ears alone.
“Jerusalem was only ever the capital of the Jewish people, not of any other people,” he said in comments his office then sent to the media. “Here our path as a nation began, this is our home and here we shall stay.”
Netanyahu also lauded the city’s progress under Israeli sovereignty. “Jerusalem is now in one of its most glorious epochs. We continue to build and nurture her, to expand her neighborhoods, and we have much still to do and to improve in all parts of the city for all her inhabitants.”
President Reuven Rivlin also spoke at the ceremony. A staunch defender of Israeli sovereignty over the entire city, Rivlin is also an Arabic-speaking scion to a Jewish family that has lived in Jerusalem since 1809. In his own speech, he spoke to the inequalities between Jerusalem’s Jewish and Arab halves.
“My Jerusalem is Zion and Zionism, and yet it does not belong only to its history. It belongs first and foremost to its people, and to all its residents: secular, religious and Haredi, Arabs and Jews. And in my united Jerusalem there is west and there is an east, and there are no second-class sons, there are no second-class Jerusalemites. We completed the physical unification of the city, but the task of unifying the city’s social and economic lives has barely begun.”
Israel’s very claim to sovereignty over the city meant “narrowing the pressing gap between its east and west,” he said.
Calling it a “national mission that needs to be placed squarely on the shoulders of the incoming government,” the president linked recent violence in the capital with the economic disparities experienced by Arab residents.
“The events of the past few months, including the phenomenon of stone-throwing by roaming children, only reinforce the understanding that security involves welfare. In recent months Jerusalem has witnessed bloody, brutal, murderous terrorist attacks. We will continue to fight against terrorism without hesitation and without fear. With that in mind, the ticking bomb that is the welfare of the residents of East Jerusalem will not be dismantled by police and security forces alone. It would be foolish and wrong to think so. And above all, it would be negligent not to address the issues in time,” Rivlin said.
The Ammunition Hill ceremony was attended by Netanyahu, Rivlin, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, Zionist Union MK and deputy Knesset speaker Nachman Shai and Supreme Court Deputy Chief Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, along with IDF officers and other dignitaries.