Western Wall
The Western Wall in Jerusalem Photo by David Bachar
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For a long time now, Jerusalem Day has served as an excuse for the far right to excoriate Arab residents of the city's eastern part and violently demonstrate their presence in their neighborhoods. But this year, the baton of incitement has passed from the delusional fringes to the very heart of the political arena - the government.

Of all the places the city has to offer, the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva is the site where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to celebrate the day. In front of the students devoutly singing "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning," Netanyahu promised the yeshiva's head, Rabbi Yaakov Shapira, that "we have never conceded Jerusalem."

It would be better not to make such statements right now - and especially not in a place so identified with stubborn resistance to any division of the capital. But Mayor Nir Barkat went even further: He promised that the freeze on construction in the city would not continue.

Then, as if all this were not enough, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch hastened to respond to Washington's request that Israel refrain from provocative actions by announcing that "we will resume razing houses in East Jerusalem over the next few days."

The greatest achievement of all, however, belongs to Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar, who has doubled the number of schoolchildren visiting the Temple Mount and the City of David, from 200,000 two years ago to 400,000 since the start of the current school year. Under a new program drafted by the Education Ministry on the minister's orders, students are obligated to visit Jerusalem at least three times during their 12 years of school.

In theory, there is nothing wrong with this. Yet the visits tend to focus on sites like the Old City's Jewish Quarter, the Western Wall tunnels, Zion Gate and the archaeological excavations of the Temple Mount's southern wall - all disputed areas that are on the agenda during negotiations with the Palestinians, and are also associated with new Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem. Moreover, the tours, which are led by guides from the extreme right-wing organization Elad, blatantly ignore the Palestinians' existence and bear the clear stamp of religious nationalist indoctrination.

The government's stance is particularly worrying given its aggressive actions on the ground: the tightening of the belt of Jewish settlement in neighborhoods to the east and south of the Old City that overlook the Temple Mount.

The government's dangerous incitement, which drowns out its whispered promises to the United States, appears this week to be Israel's real policy as proximity talks with the Palestinians begin.