Leading Israeli politicians spoke yesterday in commemoration of Jerusalem Day, which marks the anniversary of the city’s reunification in 1967 during the Six Day War.
Speaking at a ceremony on Ammunition Hill, the scene of a crucial battle in 1967, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “This is our home and here we will stay.” He added that, “Only under Israeli rule is the freedom of worship in Jerusalem guaranteed for all religions … Believers pray at their holy sites, not despite our control over the city but because of it.” Netanyahu asked rhetorically, “Who opposes our presence in Jerusalem?” before answering, “Those who refuse to accept out right to live as a sovereign nation in our country.”
Addressing the same official event, President Reuven Rivlin commented, “My Jerusalem belongs first of all to its people, all of its citizens. And in my united Jerusalem there is a west and an east. It doesn’t have any stepchildren and there aren’t any Jerusalemites who don’t belong.” However, he highlighted the “massive gulf” between the west and east of the city, saying, “We completed the physical unification of the city, but we have barely begun the mission of socially and economically unifying the city.”
Meanwhile, senior Likud MK Gilad Erdan and former-Likud minister Gideon Saar attended an event together at the Western Wall and called for Netanyahu to build more homes in Jerusalem. Their joint appearance will likely be viewed as a veiled threat to oppose Netanyahu from within Likud.
Yesterday’s Jerusalem Day festivities culminated in the controversial Flag Parade from Jerusalem’s city centre to the Western Wall, with the route taking marchers through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City. Critics have accused participants of taunting local Arab residents, with Meretz leader Zahava Galon describing it yesterday as an “aggressive show of force” by far-right elements. 3,000 police secured yesterday’s parade but light clashes broke out at the Damascus Gate of the Old City between Arab protesters and police.