Netanyahu: 'For the sake of the unity of Jerusalem, this government must survive'

After Itamar Ben-Gvir visited the Temple Mount, the government gathered for a meeting in the Western Wall tunnels. Netanyahu called on the coalition to overcome the crisis surrounding passing the state budget and also attacked the opposition

Gilad Cohen, Einav Halabi , Moran Azulay|
Just hours after National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir visited the Temple Mount , the government on Sunday held its weekly in the tunnels of the Western Wall in Jerusalem in honor of Jerusalem Day.
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"For the sake of the unity of Jerusalem, we must continue to maintain this government," said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the start of the meeting.
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ישיבת הממשלה במנהרות הכותל
ישיבת הממשלה במנהרות הכותל
The government holds a meeting in the Western Wall tunnels
(Photo: Jonathan Zindel, Flash90)
"Only a year ago we saw a shameful scene here, two Jewish women rushed to take down the Israeli flags from their car – they were afraid that a procession of Palestinians in Jerusalem would harm them. Like many others, we were also shocked by this. We promised to restore the national honor, and with Operation Shield and Arrow, which changed the equation against the Islamic Jihad, we did it," Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu referred to the crisis in the coalition government surrounding the passage of the state budget, saying: "In order to continue to maintain our national government, we must pass the budget. I have experience in this, and I can say that arguments always arise at the last minute - I believe we will overcome them."
If a budget is not passed by the end of the month, it triggers the automatic dissolution of the government.
Netanyahu also criticized the opposition. "I say to the political opponents - don't get your hopes up and you should stop the hypocrisy. You are the ones who distributed funds every week to the Arab Joint List and other parties just to sustain your failed government. Of course, you didn't call them 'coalition funds' or 'looting' because you are on the side of the enlightened. What hypocrisy, what arrogance, what a lie," he said.
Netanyahu sent a conciliatory message to the chairman of the Torah Judaism party, Yitzhak Goldknopf, who is demanding an additional half a billion shekels for his movement's educational instututions, which are exempt from teaching the core curriculum.
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ישיבת הממשלה במנהרות הכותל
ישיבת הממשלה במנהרות הכותל
The government poses for a photo in the Western Wall tunnels
(Photo: Jonathan Zindel, Flash90)
"Unlike them (theopposition), we will pass a responsible budget because an ultra-Orthodox child should not receive less than a secular or religious child. He is not half a child. No Jew should hear antisemitic incitement or see the cartoons that are literally a 'copy-paste' of what we knew in the darkest times. The fact is that we have succeeded in integrating the ultra-Orthodox into the labor market more than any other government. No amount of your false propaganda will prevent us from passing the budget and the Settlements Law," Netanyahu said.
The chairman of National Unity party, Benny Gantz, responded that "Netanyahu is right, an ultra-Orthodox child should not receive less than a secular child. He deserves, along with his Torah studies, to also study core subjects. For his sake, for his future and for the future of all of us."
The spokesman for the Fatah movement Munther al-Haik criticized the government for holding its meeting in the heart of the Jerusalem. "The meeting of the occupation government will not change the historical and religious reality of Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the State of Palestine," he said.
Al-Haik also referred to Ben-Gvir's visit to the Temple Mount. "The terrorist's attack on the Al Aqsa Mosque, alongside a handful of settlers and under heavy security, is a provocation and a blatant violation of the status quo on the Temple Mount. The courtyards of Al Aqsa and the holy city will remain the property of the Palestinians only, and to the Zionists there will be no room here," he said.
Hamas spokesman Hazem Qasem also commented on the holding of the government meeting in the tunnels of the Western Wall, saying: "This is a dangerous escalation of the religious war waged by the occupation against the holy city. These Judaizing measures, which the Zionist government intends to approve at the meeting today, are an attempt to falsify the identity of the city of Jerusalem, which is blatant aggression against our people." He clarified: "The Palestinian people will continue their struggle to preserve the Arab and Islamic identity of Jerusalem."
With the knowledge of Netanyahu, who was informed about the move on Thursday, Ben-Gvir went up to the Temple Mount – after he had avoided doing so on Jerusalem Day itself, as he had done in previous years.
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איתמר בן גביר עולה להר בהבית
איתמר בן גביר עולה להר בהבית
Itamar Ben-Gvir visits the Temple Mount
(Photo: Communication - Otzma Yehudit)
"I am happy to go up to the Temple Mount, the most important place for the people of Israel. We are the owners of the house here," he said during the visit. "All the threats of Hamas will not help, we are the owners of Jerusalem and the whole Land of Israel."
Jordan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the move: "The Israeli Minister of National Security's ascension to the Temple Mount and Al Aqsa compound is a violation of the sanctity of the site, it is a provocative step that must be condemned. It is a dangerous escalation that is a blatant violation of international law and the status quo in Jerusalem and the holy places."
The Jordanian statement also said that: "The repeated and ongoing violations against the holy sites in Jerusalem, both Muslim and Christian, alongside the continuation of unilateral steps to expand the settlements and the invasion of occupied Palestinian lands, may escalate the situation and constitute a dangerous direction that the international community should act to stop immediately."
The ministry appealed to Israel, "demanding an immediate end to all violations and actions against the Al Aqsa Mosque and to respect the sanctity of the site, including ceasing all measures that attempt to change the existing status quo."
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Egypt also condemned Ben-Gvir's visit to the Temple Mount: "These provocative actions are contrary to the responsibility and understanding expected of senior officials in the Israeli government. The consecutive ascents to the Al Aqsa Mosque, which aim to formulate a policy of temporal and spatial division, will not change the existing legal and historical status quo according to which Al Aqsa is a holy place for Islam. Egypt calls on Israel to stop acting in ways of escalation that add to the existing tensions in the city."
At the same time, Nabil Abu Radina, spokesman for the chairman of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas, also known by his nom de guerre, Abu Mazen, threatened: "The attack of the extremist Israeli minister Itamar Ben-Gvir on the courtyards of the blessed Al Aqsa Mosque, for the second time, is a blatant attack, and there will be serious consequences. The attempts of Ben-Gvir and his ilk to change the status quo in the mosque are attempts that will end in failure."
Hamas spokesman in Jerusalem Mohammed Hamada added: "We will not leave Al Aqsa alone, the occupation will bear responsibility for the barbaric invasions of its ministers and settlers. The barbaric assault carried out by Ben-Gvir – accompanied by a group of extremist settlers – into the courtyards of the blessed Al Aqsa Mosque this morning, confirms the depth of the danger faced from the extreme right."
He noted: "In the face of this relentless aggression against our purest places and the holy mosques, we confirm that our people have determination and a longer breath than the occupation, and our people will not surrender in the face of this aggression. We call on our people in Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Arabs of Israel to strengthen the presence at Al Aqsa."
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