Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
Prime Minister Binyamin NetanyahuIsrael news photo: Eli Mandelbaum

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Wednesday said the Jewish people have "a right to build in our eternal capital."

Speaking in the Knesset’s plenum at a memorial for assassinated Israeli lawmaker Rehavam Ze’evi, Netanyahu explained that Ze’evi’s “life began in Jerusalem and ended in Jerusalem. That was 'Gandhi' [Ze'evi's nickname, ed.] – a man of Jerusalem.”

“All who love Jerusalem should learn from 'Gandhi',” Netanyahu said. “We must protect its unity, stop those who try to rewrite its history, and remind the world over and over again that Jerusalem was never the capital of any other nation.”

“Over thousands of years in exile, the Jewish people prayed to return to Jerusalem,” the prime minister recounted, quoting the Psalm: “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, may my right hand wither.”

We must “always remember that the work of strengthening and developing Jerusalem will never end. This is our historical and national responsibility," Netanyahu said.

“We have the right to build in our eternal capital,” he asserted. “It is our privilege and responsibility for this generation and the next – not as punishment, but as a basic right.”

Netanyahu's comments were widely seen as a response to criticism from officials in Washington and other Western capitals over his government's decision to authorize new housing units in Jerusalem, and elsewhere, partly due to Abbas'  unilateral request for statehood at the UN.

On Tuesday, Netanyahu and his eight senior ministers decided to freeze the transfer of funds to the Palestinian Authority and accelerate building in Jerusalem, Gush Etzion, and Maale Adumim.

MK Arye Eldad (National Union), when he spoke, emphasized on Ze'evi's political views.

“'Gandhi' saw the establishment of a Palestinian state as gambling with our very existence,” Eldad explained. “There is only one solution: A Jewish State to the west of the Jordan River, a Palestinian state to the east.”

Eldad, a member of Ze'evi's party at the time he was assassinated, said Ze'evi's vision is “more realistic than ever. The Jewish State should be ready to free itself of the diplomatic dead-end in which it is mired.”

Ze’evi was a Palmach fighter with heroic exploits to his credit  and then an IDF major-general who founded the Moledet party, which was known for maintaining “Arabia is the land of Arabs, Judea is the land of the Jews,” and “Zionism is an ideology of transfer,”  referring to the Arabs of Judea and Samaria.

He was murdered at the Jerusalem Hyatt hotel in 2001 by gunmen from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. His murderers were not set free in the Gilad Shalit exchange deal.