Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman
took advantage of the diplomatic reception at the President's Residence marking Israel's
Independence Day to assert that Jerusalem is not up for negotiation. "Today, I stand before you in Jerusalem, as Israel's foreign minister, and reaffirm late Prime Minister Begin's statement: Jerusalem is our undivided, eternal capital," he said.
Without referring to the plans being considered
in the White House, Lieberman said, "Any attempt to force a solution on the parties without establishing a foundation of mutual trust will only deepen the conflict. Peace cannot be enforced, it must be built."
After thanking the ambassadors and diplomats, the foreign minister quoted former Prime Minister Menachem Begin, from Israel's 32nd Independence Day.
"Citizens of Israel, let us set Jerusalem above our highest joy! …It is our right to reaffirm on the day of our rededication of our national independence, that the city, north and south, east and west, is entirely under Israel's sovereignty, our eternal capital city."
Lieberman emphasized that Begin, who won the Nobel Peace Prize, "expressed the eternal connection between Jews everywhere and Jerusalem, which existed then and exists today. Begin made that statement as Israel and Egypt
were implementing the historic peace agreement between them. It did not stand in the way of peace."
"As Israel proved time and again, especially during PM Begin's right wing government, we yearn for peace and can achieve peace with a genuine partner," the foreign minister asserted. "That was the case when we signed peace agreements with President Sadat and later with the late King Hussein of Jordan.
These historic peace agreements were made possible because we had genuine partners, as well as a supportive international environment."
Lieberman added, "The State of Israel has proven time and again that it is prepared to pay a high price for peace with its neighbors and has already evacuated territory three times its size.
"In the last year alone, the current government, which is center-right, has made many significant gestures and confidence-building measures towards the Palestinians."
"In order to make progress beyond the current deadlock, we must now create a new reality in the region based on security for Israelis, economic prosperity for Palestinians, and stability for both. Only then will it be possible to negotiate a final agreement between the parties."
The foreign minister also said that Israel is an island of democracy and freedom in the Middle East.
"We are an ancient people that returned to its historic homeland," he said, adding, "In little more than six decades, a fleeting moment in history, Israel has transformed itself from a tiny nation surrounded by hostility into a high-tech powerhouse. We transformed the desert into a source of life and our knowledge and knowhow into a national reserve of creativity and excellence."
Roni Sofer also contributed to this report