MK Likud Binyamin Netanyahu
MK Likud Binyamin NetanyahuIsrael News Photo: Nissim Zev

Likud party chairman and Knesset Opposition leader MK Binyamin Netanyahu warned at the Jerusalem Conference Wednesday that the Obama administration and leftist Israeli politicians will try to internationalize holy sites in Jerusalem -- and he vowed to fight the move.

Netanyahu speech starts at 1:00 minute mark in video below.

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Netanyahu told the audience, “Some politicians are trying to blur the importance of the Temple Mount to the Jewish People by referring to it as the ‘Holy Basin.’ We, as Jews, know who built the Temple Mount.”

The term “Holy Basin” refers to the area of the Temple Mount, the Mount of Olives, Mount Zion and a variety of Christian holy sites which the administration of former U.S. President Bill Clinton recommended be administered under a “special regime.”

This raises the issue of who would administer the Temple Mount, since at present the Wakf Islamic Authority controls the site, albeit under Israeli sovereignty. Moreover, the Arab neighborhoods surrounding the Temple Mount, home to tens of thousands of Israeli Arab residents, are also a part of greater Jerusalem, and thereby fall into the same discussion.

Former prime minister Netanyahu, who will likely return to his old leadership role after the February 10 Israel elections, repeatedly emphasized the Likud’s loyalty to the concept of a united Jerusalem.

“We have demonstrated in the past, and will continue to demonstrate our commitment to a complete, undivided Jerusalem,” Netanyahu assured a packed hall at the Jerusalem Regency Hotel, where he opened the final day of the Jerusalem Conference.

“What would have happened had we not built all those neighborhoods” around the central part of the capital after the Six-Day War, Netanyahu asked. “Jerusalem would have been choked.” Moreover, he said, transferring sovereignty over those areas to the Palestinian Authority is not an option.

“Everyone knows what will happen if we were to leave those areas and divide Jerusalem. Someone will enter – and that someone will be Hamas.”

Dividing the capital, or resurrecting the specter of internationalizing the “Holy Basin”, this time at the recommendation of the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, would cause more problems even for the international community that it would solve, he added.

The three major religions of the world exist in peace, have access to all their sites, only because Jerusalem is united and under Israeli rule, Netanyahu contended, adding in deliberately Hebrew-accented English, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

L-R: National Union party Chairman Yaakov Katz, Likud MK Dr. Yuval Steinitz, Likud Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu at the 2009 Jerusalem Conference

After Netanyahu's Jerusalem Conference speech, he convened with his fellow party member Dr. Yuval Steinitz and Ichud Leumi (National Union) party Chairman Yaakov Katz. Katz asked the Likud chairman what his plans are for a coalition after the Israel elections. Netanyahu responded, "We will establish a broad coalition based on all the Zionist parties - blue and orange." [Orange is the color associated with the Ichud Leumi (National Union) party and its supporters].

The meeting between Netanyahu and Katz was held in a positive atmosphere with reciprocal intentions for developing a close working relationship. Katz later told reporters, "Only a strong Ichud Leumi (National Union) in the Knesset will insure that all the good intentions of the government will be implemented."

Discuss this topic on the Israel Politics & Elections Forum (Photos: Nissim Zev)