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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Netanyahu: Jerusalem is a foundation of Israel's unity

At cabinet meeting, PM says US understands importance of Jerusalem to the Jewish people; cabinet expected to approve J'lem economic plan.

Jerusalem is "one of the foundations of Israel's unity," Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Sunday at a special cabinet meeting at the Tower of David Museum to commemorate Jerusalem Day that will be celebrated Wednesday.

Netanyahu said that he has stressed Jerusalem's centrality recently both in the Knesset and in the US Congress. He said there is an understanding in the US of the importance of Jerusalem to the Jewish people.

"It is important that the whole world knows that the people of Israel and its friends in the world stand together in their loyalty to Jerusalem and our heritage, are determined in our positions, stand up for our security, and extend our hand for a real peace with our neighbors," he said.

The cabinet was expected to approve an economic plan to strengthen the capital economically through two primary channels: tourism and high tech.

The first part of the plan is a NIS 145.5 million investment to strengthen the tourist infrastructure in the city. This will be augmented by a NIS 75 million allocation from the Tourism Ministry to encourage the construction of more hotel rooms in the city.

Another NIS 71.4 million is earmarked to strengthen the city as a center of research and development, with money going to grants for start ups, upgrading R & D laboratories, and grants for bio-tech initiatives.

Another NIS 70.5 million will be allocated for public buildings, student housing, academic projects, and additional measures "to attract productive residents."

In addition, the cabinet is expected to add Jerusalem to the list of cites where scholarships to discharged soldiers or veterans of national service are given for the first year of study in institutions of higher education.

Netanyahu Rallies around ‘United Jerusalem’

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, feeling the political winds in his favor, told the Cabinet Sunday that a unified Jerusalem is “the heart of the country” and added that the government is committed to building in all parts of the city.

The Cabinet is expected to approve on Sunday NIS 290 million ($83 million) to strengthen the city’s economy, with most of the money to be allocated for tourism and biotech research and development.

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s comments at a special Cabinet meeting in the Old City came two days before the eve of Jerusalem Unification Day, which falls on Thursday night, celebrating 44 years since all of the capital was restored to Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War. Jordan, without United Nations authorization, occupied the southern, northern and eastern neighborhoods, where more than 250,000 Jews now live.

The Obama administration has labeled the neighborhoods as “illegitimate settlements,” backing the Palestinian Authority claim that they should be under its sovereignty in any future PA state.

Prime Minister Netanyahu repeated to Cabinet ministers what he told members of Congress last week, when he re-declared the principle of an “eternal and united Jerusalem.”

However, the government never has stated which areas of Jerusalem, if any, would be ceded to the Palestinian Authority in a final status plan for its becoming an independent country. Several Arab-populated areas of the city are situated beyond the security barrier, and the Palestinian Authority unofficially operates in several neighborhoods.

U.S.President Barack Obama declared in his 2008 campaign said that Jerusalem is Israel’s united and eternal capital but quickly backtracked after howls from the Palestinian Authority. He later explained that he meant the city never again will be divided by barbed wire fences, which Jordan placed after the War for Independence in 1949.