The U.N.’s position that, based on international law, the Temple Mount does not belong to Israel, is "irrelevant," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told three Israeli TV news outlets in a series of pre-election interviews over the weekend.
"The Western Wall has always been and always will belong to Israel,” Netanyahu said. “Since 1967 we have been building in Jerusalem despite world opinion. All of Israel's governments ordered the construction of homes in Jerusalem's Jewish neighborhoods, and we are no different in that respect. If the U.N. does not accept the principle of our construction in Jerusalem, for what purpose was this state established?"
Asked if the interviews to the three channels was in response to a drop in support for the Likud-Yisrael Beytenu coalition in recent polls and the strengthening of Habayit Hayehudi ("The Jewish Home"), Netanyahu replied, "Forget about that; that's only an urban legend. We have resided in the Jewish nation's capital for 3,000 years. The Western Wall is not occupied territory and I don't care what the U.N. says about that."
Netanyahu said the Jan. 22 Knesset election would send a message to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashal. He said the three enemy leaders would be waiting for the voting to end to discover if Israel's prime minister had been given a strong mandate to govern or if he had been dealt a blow.
He also said he would prefer to leave the position of housing and construction minister in the hands of his Likud party, if it gained enough seats in the election, and not have it go to Shas again.
In response to Netanyahu's remarks, Labor Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich said, "Ahmadinejad, Nasrallah and Mashal will not be voting in the coming election. Israeli citizens will be the ones to decide. It is unprecedented that a prime minister does not bother to reveal his platform and vision, and instead chooses to strike fear into the hearts of citizens in an attempt to divert the public debate to issues for which he feels no need to be accountable to the public."
Hatnuah ("The Movement") Chairwoman Tzipi Livni condemned the decision to build in E1 and said, "Netanyahu's declarations of his intention to authorize construction only serve to endanger Israel's vital interests and weaken Jerusalem and its surrounding residential blocs. His announcements are only meant for voter consumption, and we will all pay the price for his policy when even one home is built."
Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas threatened to resign and dissolve the authority if Israel went through with its plan to construct thousands of new housing units in the E1 corridor between Maaleh Adumim and Jerusalem.
According to a report in the Palestinian media on Saturday, Abbas said, "Israel is crossing a red line in announcing it will build in E1, knowing such an announcement will lead to the end of the peace process. The Palestinian Authority will not be the watchdog for Israel's program of expansion in Palestinian territories. If this goes on, there will be no other choice but to dissolve the authority and give the responsibility for the Palestinians back to Israel."