Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Monday’s opening of the Knesset winter session defended Israel’s right to build in Jerusalem and criticized the Palestinians for making unreasonable demands for peace.
As several MKs from Arab and left-wing parties interrupted his speech, Netanyahu plowed ahead, declaring that Israel has the same right to build in Jerusalem as other nations do in their own capital cities, and that there was a wide consensus in Israel to continue building throughout the city, as every government has done since Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 war.
“There is wide agreement among the public that Israel has the full right to build the Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem,” the prime minister said. “Every Israeli government in the last 50 years did that, and it is also clear to the Palestinians that those places will stay under Israeli control in any mutual agreement.”
“The French build in Paris, the English build in London, the Israelis build in Jerusalem. Should we tell Jews not to live in Jerusalem because it will stir things up?” Netanyahu asked.
“Israelis pray for ‘next year in the rebuilt Jerusalem,'” he continued. “And you tell us not to build in Jerusalem? We are building, just like we built since the start of the state. On that there needs to be a clear agreement.”
He added: “Building is the natural answer to those who want to remove us from our land. They want death and we are building life.”
The prime minister spoke soon after sources told The Times of Israel that Netanyahu has recommended plans be advanced for about 1,000 housing units in East Jerusalem. The plans call for roughly 400 units in Har Homa, in the city’s southeast, and 660 homes in Ramat Shlomo, in the northeast corner of the capital, according to the sources in the Prime Minister’s Office. Netanyahu will also push new infrastructure projects in the West Bank, including roads that will also serve the Palestinian population, a PMO source said.
Israel’s Channel 2 news reported Sunday night that Netanyahu is also in negotiations with right-wing lawmakers and settler officials over approval for a large West Bank development project, including 2,000 new units, 12 new roads, parks, student villages, and renovation of the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein warned rowdy MKs to stop interrupting the proceedings as the prime minister argued that it is not Israeli construction that provokes the conflict.
“The violence against us is not an outcome of the building in Jerusalem,” he said. “Terror comes from our enemies’ desire that we shouldn’t be here at all, in no place and in no part of Jerusalem. Not in Tel Aviv, or Haifa. Since the dawn of Zionism, construction has been the natural and crushing answer to those are harassing our existence and want to uproot us from our land. They want death, and we build here for life.”
Netanyahu panned the Palestinian for making demands on Israel without offering anything in return.
“The Palestinians demand from us the establishment of a Palestinian state without peace or security. They demand withdrawal, the absorption of refugees and the division of Jerusalem. They aren’t prepared to agree to the the most basic conditions of peace between two peoples, mutual recognition.”
“Israel will not agree to a Palestinian state without a true peace agreement, an agreement that will recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people, and that will include long-term and concrete security arrangements on the ground, that enables Israel to defend herself, with her own might, against any threat.”
Netanyahu began by praising the IDF for its actions during the summer conflict against Hamas and declared that it is the most moral army in the world.
Netanyahu also repeated his call on the global community to maintain sanctions on Iran and prevent it from building nuclear weapons, a threat to the region he called even greater than that of the Islamic State and Muslim extremists.
“There is no greater danger to our area than Iran becoming a threshold nuclear state,” he said. “To beat the Islamic State group but leave Iran as a threshold nuclear state is to win the battle but lose the war.”