Senior Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat has criticized Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for mentioning the Jewish people's historic tie to Jerusalem as described in the Bible. He accused the prime minister of “[using] religion to incite hatred and fear.”
Netanyahu had made reference to numerous Biblical references to Jerusalem while addressing the Knesset in a session honoring Jerusalem Day – the anniversary of the day on which Israel's capital was reunited after 19 years during which Jordan held control of the eastern half of the city.
The Bible refers to Jerusalem and Zion 850 times, Netanyahu said.
At first he did not say how many times Jerusalem is mentioned in the holy writings of other faiths, but after he was challenged by an Israeli Arab MK, he said Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Koran at all, although a 12th century interpretation of the Koran does say one passage referred to the city. However, the prime minister clarified, “It is not my intention to detract from the bond other peoples have with Jerusalem... I am challenging the attempts to distract from, distort or erase our unique bond with Jerusalem.”
Leaders in the PA, and Muslims leaders in Israel, have often portrayed the Jewish connection to Jerusalem, and to the Temple Mount in particular, as a threat to Islam. Israel has been accused of attempting to “Judaize” Jerusalem and to damage or destroy the Al-Aksa mosque.
The PA has claimed all of the neighborhoods formerly held by Jordan, including the Old City, the City of David and the Temple Mount, as the future capital of a PA state. Speaking Wednesday, Erekat warned, “East Jerusalem cannot continue to be occupied if there is to be peace.”
Netanyahu, like previous prime ministers, states that Israel's capital will not be divided.