World Bulletin / News Desk
Israeli leaders have asserted that Jerusalem would remain as their state's capital, despite international criticism over recent plans to build more Jewish-only settlement units in the occupied holy city.
"One of the more significant elements of our national unity, is the general agreement on Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and the world needs to understand that," Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said on Monday evening during a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"Jerusalem is our capital and as our capital, we need to allow the residents of the city to live and reside in it,” Rivlin was quoted as saying by a statement from the premier's office.
According to the release, Netanyahu added: "When this [settlement building] happens in the capital of Israel, do we have to apologize? Or to cancel it? Not in my opinion, not in your opinion, and not in the opinion of any sensible Jew or indeed any reasoned and fair-minded person.”
U.S. officials last week condemned the Israeli government's approval of new settlement construction in the Givat Hamatos settlement in occupied East Jerusalem, and the seizure of buildings in a predominantly Palestinian neighborhood in the city.
Responding to Netanyahu's criticism that the denouncement was "against the American values," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Monday: "It did seem odd for him to try to defend the actions of his government by saying that our response did not reflect American values.”
He noted that Republican and Democrat administrations have opposed "any unilateral actions that attempt to prejudge final status issues, including the status of Jerusalem."
"It’s American values that have led us to defend Israel in a variety of international forums, including a variety of United States forums," he said.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the holy city in 1980, claiming Jerusalem as the unified capital of the self-proclaimed Jewish state – a move never recognized by the international community.
Palestinians, for their part, continue to demand the establishment of an independent state in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
They accuse Israel of waging an aggressive campaign to "Judaize" the city with the aim of effacing its Arab and Islamic identity and ultimately driving out its Palestinian inhabitants.
Sacred to both Muslims and Jews, Jerusalem is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which for Muslims represents the world's third holiest site.
Jews refer to the area as the "Temple Mount," claiming it was the site of two prominent Jewish temples in ancient times.Last Mod: 07 Ekim 2014, 10:51