Forty-eight years after the reunification of Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that the holy city will never be divided again between Arabs and Jews.
Speaking at the official Jerusalem Day ceremony at Ammunition Hill on Sunday, Netanyahu commemorated the lives of those who gave up their lives to liberate Jerusalem during the Six Day War from Jordan.
“Jerusalem won’t become once again a wounded and bisected city. We will forever keep Jerusalem united under Israeli sovereignty,” Netanyahu stated.
“On this special day it is clear to us that a divided Jerusalem is a memory. The future belong to the complete Jerusalem that shall never again be divided,” he added.
Invoking the biblical and historical claims of the Jewish nation to Jerusalem, Netanyahu had a clear message to the world. “Jerusalem was only ever the capital of the Jewish people, not of any other people,” the prime minister stated in additional comments following the speech.
“Here our path as a nation began, this is our home and here we shall stay.”
Netanyahu praised the flourishing and continual progress of the city under Israeli sovereignty. “Jerusalem is now in one of its most glorious epochs,” he said. “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.”
Also speaking at the ceremony was Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. The president, whose family settled in Jerusalem in 1809, touched upon the inequalities between the Jewish and Arab populations living in the city.
“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,” he stated.
“And in my united Jerusalem there is a west and there is an east, 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.”
Rivlin linked the recent unrest and violence in Jerusalem with various economic hardships experienced its Arab residents. He said narrowing the “pressing gap between its east and west” is a “national mission that needs to be placed squarely on the shoulders of the incoming government.”
“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,” Rivlin stated.
“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.”