What Was Missing in Netanyahu’s Words to Cameron

In responding to the outrageous remarks of UK Prime Minister David Cameron on Jerusalem, and here they are in full from Handsard, the official record:

Q12. [903655] Imran Hussain (Bradford East) (Lab): Last week, together with several of my hon. Friends, I visited Palestine, where we went to the home of Nora and her family, who have lived in the old city of East Jerusalem since 1953. Israeli settlers, however, are now trying to force Nora from her home of over 60 years. There are many other cases like that. Does the Prime Minister agree with me that illegal settlements and constructions are a major roadblock that hinder peaceful negotiations? What are this Government doing to help prevent these infringements into Palestinian lives and land?

The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman’s question is incredibly important. I am well known as a strong friend of Israel, but I have to say that the first time I visited Jerusalem, had a proper tour around that wonderful city and saw what has happened with the effective encirclement of East Jerusalem—occupied East Jerusalem— I found it genuinely shocking. What this Government have consistently done and go on doing is to say that we are supporters of Israel, but we do not support illegal settlements and we do not support what is happening in East Jerusalem. It is very important for this capital city to be maintained in the way it was in the past.

Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said:

“My friend David Cameron, who is undoubtedly a friend of Israel, probably forgot some basic facts about Jerusalem. Only Israeli sovereignty is preventing ISIS and Hamas from setting fire to the holy sites in the city, like they do elsewhere across the Middle East. Only Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem guarantees the rule of law for everyone, something that doesn’t exist in Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Libya or other wide parts of the Middle East, including the Palestinian Authority and also Gaza.  Only Israeli sovereignty guarantees all that, and it’s important that our friends in Europe remember this simple fact.”

He added that only Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem guarantees the city’s Arab residents roads, clinics, workplaces and other means of normal life that Arabs across the Middle East don’t enjoy.

Something is missing though.

Jerusalem is the capital not only of Israel but of the Jewish people.  Here is David Ben-Gurion on December 5, 1949 addressing himself to the nations of the world, as he phrased it, about Israel:

…since it became a united nation under King David three thousand years ago as regards Jerusalem its holy city and as regards its attitude to the places which are holy to the other religions…our delegation to the U.N. announced that Israel would honor all the existing rights regarding the holy places and sacred buildings in Jerusalem, assure freedom of worship and free access to all the holy sites under its control, recognizing the rights of pilgrims of all religions and nations to visit their holy places and assuring freedom of movement for clergymen…

…we see fit to state that Jewish Jerusalem is an organic, inseparable part of the State of Israel, just as it is an integral part of Jewish history and belief. Jerusalem is the heart of the State of Israel. We are proud of the fact that Jerusalem is also sacred to other religions…We cannot imagine, however, that the U.N. would attempt to sever Jerusalem from the State of Israel or harm Israel’s sovereignty in its eternal capital.

A week later, on December 13, he informed the Knesset that since then the General Assembly of the United Nations had, by a large majority, decided to place Jerusalem under an international regime as a separate entity. He then declared:

This decision is utterly incapable of implementation – if only because of the determination and unalterable opposition of the inhabitants of Jerusalem themselves. It is to be hoped that the General Assembly will in the course of time amend the error which its majority has made, and will make no attempt to impose a regime on the Holy City against the will of its people.

We respect and shall continue to respect the wishes of all those States which are concerned for freedom of worship and free access to the Holy Places, and which seek to safeguard existing rights in the Holy Places and religious edifices in Jerusalem. Our undertaking to preserve these rights remains in force, and we shall gladly and willingly carry it out, even though we cannot lend our participation to the forced separation of Jerusalem, which violates without need or reason the historic and natural right of the people who dwell in Zion.

Our right to Jerusalem is not rooted in our behavior and our implementation of law, morality and fairness, but our natural sovereignty over the city for over 3000 years.

Mr. Netanyahu should have opened with some words on that theme. That no other people has a better claim or indeed, a right, to Jerusalem. No other people has a comparable history with the city, no other people has had its monarchy so long in the city, its Temples and it was only when Jerusalem was overrun, conquered, the Temple destroyed and the Land of Israel then occupied by foreign powers did we truly lose our political status.

Netanyahu could even have quoted to Cameron the 1835 reply to a taunt by Daniel O’Connell of another Benjamin, Benjamin Disraeli in that same Hall of Parliament:-

and when the ancestors of the right honorable gentleman were brutal savages in an unknown island, mine were priests in the temple of Solomon

and that Temple of Solomon was in Jerusalem.

“East Jerusalem” is a fiction.  The city is united.  It was liberated from foreign yoke.  Our legislature passed a law that reaffirmed that in 1980 (see here, starting at page 2406). Our soldiers fought for it and they died for it and it is truly shocking that a politician of such standing, a friend of Israel, would make such remarks.

A more forthright pronouncement was to have been expected.


About the Author
Yisrael Medad, currently is a Research Fellow at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem and Deputy Editor of the English Language Anthology of Jabotinsky's Writings. American-born, he and his wife made Aliyah in 1970. He resides in Shiloh since 1981. He was a member of the Betar Youth Movement World Executive and is a volunteer spokesperson for the Yesha Council. He holds a MA in Political Science from the Hebrew University and is active is many Zionist and Jewish projects and initiatives.
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