Olmert Under Fire for Suggesting 'Jerusalem was Never United'
Education Minister Gideon Saar slammed former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday, over comments he made about Jerusalem in an interview with the Ma’ariv newspaper.
During the interview, Olmert said that Jerusalem, unified during the 1967 Six Day War, was never a unified city and suggested that under a future peace agreement Israel will have no choice other than to give up parts of the Holy City, namely the neighborhoods in which Arabs reside.
Jerusalem “was never united in the same way they are talking about,” Olmert said. “We will have to give up this slogan because that’s the reality. Whoever wants to say that Issawiya is Jerusalem, let him. When was Issawiya was part of the historical Jerusalem? When was Abu Dis part of historical Jerusalem? What memories do the people of Israel have from those names I mentioned? When did we ever long for Abu Dis, which suddenly is treated as if there is no life in Jerusalem without it and without all kinds of other neighborhoods that are populated by Arabs?”
The former Prime Minister added, “We cannot bring [the Arab neighborhoods] together and connect them to the real fabric of life of Jerusalem and, aside from distress, we get nothing from them. You cannot talk about peace and say you want peace and at the same time not to believe that it requires us to renounce the slogans we have gotten used to.”
Saar sharply criticized Olmert’s remarks, describing them as “foolishness.”
“Jerusalem has never been the capital of anyone other than Jewish people, so I was sorry that on the morning of Jerusalem Day I read such foolishness by someone who served as mayor of Jerusalem,” Saar, who spoke during the annual Flag March in Jerusalem, said.
“Olmert said that political concessions in Jerusalem are inevitable and I say that a political concession occurred when you concluded your term as prime minister,” added Saar.
“When I see here tonight the determination to keep Jerusalem in our hands - there is no power that can hurt our sovereignty of the united capital of Israel,” the Education Minister said, turning to the audience and adding, “Would you agree to have Arab terrorists standing on the walls of Jerusalem?”
“It will not happen because we will not allow it to happen,” said Saar, adding that “Jerusalem will have one sovereignty - in the Old City, on the Temple Mount, on the Mount of Olives and in the City of David. The entire pack of lies spoken by Mahmoud Abbas and his cronies, who speak about the conquest of Jerusalem by us, can be crumbled to dust using historical facts.”
Earlier on Sunday, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat also criticized Olmert, over his failed plan to split Jerusalem with the Palestinian Authority. The plan stalled when the PA left talks without signing an agreement.
“Olmert makes a bitter mistake in thinking that separation, not unity, is the solution. His words are demagoguery,” Barkat said.
“He lost his faith in Jerusalem when he was mayor,” he continued. “He wants to run from conflicts in Jerusalem and give in to them, instead of coping with them and directing them. That is not the way.”
Most Israelis, most Jerusalem residents, and even most Arab residents of eastern Jerusalem, are not interested in splitting the city, Barkat added.