In his Jerusalem Day speech, Netanyahu repeated his hopes for peace in the region, stressing that a division of the Israeli capital is non-negotiable.
Speaking at the 49th annual Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day) event, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that Jerusalem, “released from its shackles” 49 years ago, “will not return to a reality whereby the city is torn, divided and wounded.”
“We are in Jerusalem by right, not by charity,” the Israeli leader declared.
The annual ceremony marking Israel’s 1967 Six Day War victory and the reunification of Jerusalem, the Israeli capital, is held at Jerusalem’s Ammunition Hill, the strategic site that served as a Jordanian military post between 1949 and 1967 and is now a memorial to the soldiers who fell in battle. Conquering this area made it possible for the IDF to liberate the Old City.
“Placing the Israeli flag on the Western Wall was the second most important moment after the declaration of the State of Israel,” Netanyahu stated.
In light of the recent French peace initiative that Netanyahu has firmly opposed, insisting that direct negotiations with the Palestinians is the only way to reach an agreement, he took the opportunity to reiterate his position.
“One of the names of Jerusalem is the City of Peace. The State of Israel wants peace. I want peace, and I would like to renew the peace process in order to achieve [peace],” he said. However, this could be achieved only through “direct and free negotiations between the parties. We’ve seen it with peace with Egypt and Jordan. It was not achieved by international dictates.”
Furthermore, “our neighbors [must] recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people.”
“The same players in the international arena who did not lift a finger to help us when the threat of destruction hovered over us were those who tried to impose a political settlement on us,” he continued. “It did not work then and will not work today. Any international dictate hardens the Palestinians’ positions. Anyone who denies our connection to Jerusalem, transforms the Temple Mount into a center of religious incitement, who does not renounce terrorism – still has a long way to peace.”
Netanyahu recalled that during the Jordanian occupation of eastern Jerusalem, the area “was a reality of huge concrete walls with snipers on top, no man’s land and minefields…
“The veterans here remember what the soldiers wrote on the military vehicles – ‘there will not be a second Auschwitz, and there will not be a second Masada.’ I remember the feeling of threatening danger and adrenaline and the spirit of our fighters, which thanks to them, our situation changed from one side to the other. This was proven once again – that the only way to guarantee our existence is our presence and ability to defend ourselves and to protect the security of the state of Israel.”
Netanyahu’s address was made on the eve of a trip to Moscow, “marking 25 years of relations between Russia and Israel.” On that note, he reminded his audience that “on the eve of the Six Day War, the armies that surrounded us were all armed and funded by the USSR. Russia is a global power, and our relations are getting stronger. The strengthening of this relationship strengthens our national security and prevents unnecessary friction on our northern border.”