Islamic extremism threatens city and entire world, premier says at Jerusalem Day ceremony; President Rivlin says Jerusalem belongs to all of it citizens – Arabs and Jews.
Netanyahu at Ammunition Hill, May 17, 2015. Photo by Emil Salman
Jerusalem was always the capital of the Jewish people alone – and not of any other nation, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday night during a Jerusalem Day address at Ammunition Hill.
"This is our home and here we will stay," the prime minister added.
That said, Netanyahu stressed that Israel ensures that Jerusalem will be an open and tolerant city.
"Only under Israeli rule is the freedom of worship in Jerusalem guaranteed for all religions," he said. "Believers pray at their holy sites, not despite our control over the city but because of it."
The prime minister described Jerusalem as a "touchstone that puts us to the test: To what extent are we willing to hold onto it and defend it?"
Netanyahu vowed that Israel will never come to terms with terror and will hunt down its proponents. "We will fight incitement, which stems from denial of our attachment to Jerusalem and our heritage."
"Who opposes our presence in Jerusalem?" the prime minister asked. "Those who refuse to accept out right to live as a sovereign nation in our country. They regard us as a foreign weed that needs to be pulled out of this ground."
In a more conciliatory speech, President Reuven Rivlin said that, while Jerusalem for him is both "Zion and Zionism," it doesn't belong only to its history.
"It belongs first and foremost to its people, to all its residents – secular, religious and Haredi; Arabs and Jews," Rivlin said. "In united Jerusalem there is a west and an east. It has no step-children."
"We must be honest with ourselves when we look at the massive gulf between the west of the city and the east," the president urged his audience. "We may have united the city, but we have barely begun the task of bringing about its economic and social unity.
"While western Jerusalem is achieving impressive progress and development, in the east we find neglect and despair."
Clashes in Damascus Gate
Netanyahu and Rivlin's speeches were made as an annual 'flag march' made its way through the Old City, sparking clashes between Palestinians and police and between Jewish and Palestinian protesters.
The flag march, held by national-religious participants, passed through the Muslim quarter of the Old City after a petition by left-wing groups to change its route was rejected by the High Court of Justice.
The last few days have seen a concerted effort by rabbis, police commanders and organizers of the march to persuade participants to abstain from violence, which characterized such events in previous years. Hundreds of policemen are expected to secure the march, while leftist activists from an organization called “Jerusalem Won’t Tolerate Racism” are planning a demonstration opposing the march of flags.
Palestinian demonstrators are confronted by Israeli police during the 'flag march' in Jerusalem's Old City, May 17, 2015. (AFP)
Dozens of Palestinians threw rocks at policemen, injuring two officers. One of the officers sustained head injuries. Earlier, police stopped a brawl between Jews and Palestinians and arrested one Palestinian.
In the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Sharet, ultra-Orthodox children threw rocks at firemen. In Silwan, firemen were also pelted with rocks, and Border Police arrested a 17-year-old Palestinian. Border Police also arrested a Palestinian man suspected of throwing rocks in Isawiya in north Jerusalem.
A few hundred left-wing activists are protesting the march at Safra Square, near city hall, yelling slogans such as "Jerusalem will not be silent, outlaw racism."
The new Public Security Minister Yariv Levin said in Jerusalem that he was briefed by the precinct commander and that so far he has seen "an orderly and reinforced deployment on all fronts."