Itzik Criticized for Inviting Envoys to Anniversary of J'lem Reunification

Olmert: Israel seeks world acceptance of a united Jerusalem under its sovereignty.

After several leading foreign ambassadors refused an invitation to a Knesset event celebrating the 40th anniversary of Jerusalem's unification, some Knesset members criticized Speaker Dalia Itzik for having invited them in the first place.

"Not a single country recognizes the unification of Jerusalem," noted Labor MK Colette Avital, who heads the house's Jerusalem caucus. "It was clear that the ambassadors would not come, so [Itzik] should not have invited them, thereby causing this embarrassment."

Itzik responded that as of last Thursday, more than 20 ambassadors had promised to attend. She added that the Foreign Ministry approved the invitations.

The ambassadors from the United States and the European Union countries announced on Sunday that they will not attend the celebrations.

According to Army Radio, the envoy from Germany declined the invitation in the name of all EU states due to a dispute over the status of East Jerusalem as part of the Israeli capital.

A short time later, Israel Radio reported on Sunday that American Ambassador Richard Jones will also not attend.

The Foreign Ministry explained it had invited diplomats to attend a ceremony commemorating 40 years since the unification of East and West Jerusalem at the Knesset.

"We regret the EU's announcement by which its representatives will not take part in this event, and expect the participation of many other diplomats," it added.

All of the embassies in Israel are based in Tel Aviv, and not Jerusalem, due to the disputed status of the capital.

The entire city fell under Israeli control during the 1967 Six-Day War, an event marked annually by Jerusalem Day.

The Palestinians, however, want East Jerusalem to be the capital of a future state. On Friday, the Peace Now movement held an alternative event in Jerusalem to "protest against the continuation of the occupation and to create hope for a Jerusalem of peace."

Ra'am-Ta'al MK Ahmed Tibi welcomed the decision not to attend celebrations for what he termed "the so-called unification of Jerusalem."

Olmert: Israel seeks world acceptance of a united Jerusalem under its sovereignty

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Sunday he would seek to expand the borders of Jerusalem and that he hoped for eventual world acceptance Israeli sovereignty over the entire city.

At a ceremony marking the 40th anniversary of the reunification of the city in 1967, Olmert said: "The past 40 years are only the beginning. I believe, hope and pray that we will continue to work together to strengthen Jerusalem, to expand its borders, to cultivate its foundations, to build its neighborhoods."

In his remarks at the Western Wall remnant of an ancient Jewish temple in Jerusalem, Olmert said Israel hoped to achieve world acceptance of its rule in the city, by respecting its holiness to three faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

"If we do this with wisdom and caution, we will preserve this city always under our sovereignty, complete and united and accepted by the entire world. This is our goal," Olmert said.