Photo Credit: Amit Shabi / Pool
Netanyahu and Gantz at cabinet meeting in Jerusalem City Hall. May 9, 2021

Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and Israel reserves the right to build in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared on Sunday at the opening of a special cabinet meeting to mark Jerusalem Day, held at the Jerusalem Municipality.

Israel celebrates the reunification of its capital and its victory in the 1967 Six-Day War on Jerusalem Day.

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Netanyahu was apparently responding to a statement by France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom condemning Israel’s construction in the Har Homa neighborhood in Jerusalem.

The statement issued on Thursday called on Israel to revoke its decision to promote the construction of 540 houses in the Har Homa area and to “cease its policy of expanding settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.”

The Har Homa neighborhood was established in 1997 and is home to over 30,000 Israelis. Some of the land in the area was purchased by Jews in the 1940s.

Netanyahu stated that “Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for thousands of years. Our roots in Jerusalem date back to the biblical period, and our continuous connection to Jerusalem has been preserved throughout the generations.”

“Every archaeological find indicates the strength of this affinity. We reveal the past of Jerusalem, and at the same time we secure the future of Jerusalem,” he noted.

“When scanning back thousands of years, of Jewish rule and then of foreign rule, and today again – rule of the Jewish state, only under Israeli sovereignty was full and consistent religious freedom guaranteed to all religions and so we will continue to do so,” he underscored.

Relating to the calls by European countries not to build in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said that “we are also pushing hard against the pressure not to build in Jerusalem. And unfortunately, these pressures have been increasing lately. I also say to our best friends: Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. As every nation builds its capital, we too have the right to build in Jerusalem. This is what we have done and this is what we will continue to do.”

Netanyahu also related to the Muslims’ riots in Jerusalem and said that “in recent days, we have witnessed violent riots in Jerusalem under the influence of agitating factors.”

“Over the weekend I had ongoing situation assessments with all security bodies. We will not allow any extremist party to disturb the peace in Jerusalem. We will establish law and order in it – firmly and responsibly,” he stated.

To the terrorist organizations, he said “Israel will respond strongly to any act of aggression from the Gaza Strip.”

A rocket was fired from the Strip at Israel on Saturday, exploding in an open space, and the IDF bombed a Hamas military post in response. The IDF is on high alert ahead of a possible security escalation.

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Aryeh Savir is director of the International division of Tazpit News Agency.