Former Likud minister Gideon Sa’ar, who resigned from his post and left politics late last year, had a message for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday.
Speaking at the Jerusalem Day rally which took place at the Western Wall after the traditional Rikudegalim, Sa’ar said that when it comes to Jerusalem, one needs to build instead of speaking about building.
"The City of David, the Mount of Olives, the Old City, the Temple Mount – will all remain forever in our hands," he declared.
"In Jerusalem one should build," he continued. “Not talk about building in Jerusalem, but actually build. Construction in Jerusalem does not need to be a reaction to some sort of terrorist attack. This should be routine.”
“Keeping Jerusalem means building in Jerusalem,” said Sa’ar, who added, “In recent years, the demographic balance in the capital has changed and not for the better. Construction volumes are not sufficient for the purposes of development. Today is the day to say it loud and clear.”
Sa’ar called for large scale and significant construction in all of Jerusalem. “The time is now. I call on the Prime Minister – talking about construction is not enough. Enough talk, time to build.”
Sa’ar’s words were echoed by MK Gilad Erdan (Likud), who also participated in the rally.
“Even the first prime minister David Ben-Gurion said that if Israel has a soul, then Jerusalem is the soul of Israel. You do not divide your soul. We know that the nations of the world still do not accept our sovereignty and our right to all parts of the city,” said Erdan.
He went on to call on Netanyahu to build in Jerusalem, saying, "We pray ‘next year in Jerusalem’, but Jerusalem and the Temple will not be built if we do not strengthen and build in all parts of the city – in Gilo and Har Homa and everywhere and in every neighborhood indiscriminately. We will not be afraid nor will we be deterred by any threat or international pressure.”
The comments come amid continued international criticism of Israel over plans to build in Jerusalem.
Recently, Israel approved construction of 900 homes in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, a haredi neighborhood in the eastern part of the capital.
The European Union later criticized the Israeli plans, saying “Israel's determination to continue its settlement policy despite the urging of the international community not only threatens the viability of the two state solution but also seriously calls into question its commitment to a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians.”
The State Department in Washington also condemned the move, calling it "disappointing" and "damaging".
On Friday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon joined in on the criticism, saying “settlements are illegal” and that the “international community will not recognize unilateral actions on the ground”.
Meanwhile on Sunday, Netanyahu pledged that Jerusalem will never be divided again under his leadership.
Speaking at the Jerusalem Day celebration at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva, Netanyahu said Israel has an “eternal answer to terrorism – we will continue to develop the city, to build it, to make it a superpower in education and science, the center of the Torah. I pledge that as Prime Minister I will continue to develop the city. The city was united, and will never be divided again.”