Netanyahu: Arabs and Jews Alike Benefit From Unified Jerusalem

Prime Minister tells special Jerusalem Day session of Knesset that the developments and changes being made in capital are 'essential to its future'; Rivlin: We promised a united Jerusalem, but we failed to deliver.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday that the reunification of Jerusalem after the 1967 Six-Day War gave the city the "momentum to develop", for Jewish and Arab citizens alike.

"There are those in the Knesset who were born after the Six Day War," Netanyahu told a special Knesset session held in honor of the annual Jerusalem Day.. "Another 54 of you were younger than 10 when Jerusalem was freed. Like many in Jerusalem, many of you cannot remember how Jerusalem was divided."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Emil Salman

The municipality has been focusing its energy on a number of economic initiatives to improve the city, said Netanyahu, particularly in terms of neighborhood construction and easing transportation. "We are building and we will build still more," he said. "A real city is being build here."

The prime minister went on to praise Jerusalem's development, both in its culture and structure, and stressed that ongoing construction in the city's residential areas were not only for Jews, but also for Arabs, who he said "deserve it."

"I believe that these changes are essential to ensuring the future of Jerusalem," he added. "We tend to talk about the past, but we must praise what is being done today for the future. I believe that Jerusalem is quickly turning into an international city of which we can be proud, for the future as well."

Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin's delivered a political message of his own at the Knesset session, highlighting the disparities between the western and eastern parts of the city.

"We promised a united Jerusalem but we failed to deliver," he said. "We built the City of David, established Ma'ale Hazeytim, salvaged the Hurva Synagogue from ruin - but what have we done for Ras al-Amud? What have we done for the children living in East Jerusalem who can't find a school that will have them?"

Rivlin went on to describe the "barely functioning" postal services in East Jerusalem.

In her address, opposition leader Tzipi Livni said that the events of 1967 united all segments of the Jewish people, regardless of religious observance, ideology or background.

"We mustn't create divisions or measure how much one loves Jerusalem, especially at a time when some are questioning Jerusalem as the capital of Israel," said Livni.  "There is no "their" Jerusalem and "our" Jerusalem."

On Tuesday, Netanyahu reiterated his declaration  that Jerusalem would never be divided, emphasizing the Jewish people's longstanding historical connection to the city.

Netanyahu used a play on words of a 2,000-year-old Jewish prayer yearning for a return to Jerusalem, saying "next year in a more built up Jerusalem," alluding to his intention to build more homes in Jerusalem, despite contention with Palestinians on the matter.

Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.