‘The Western Wall is Not Occupied,’ Netanyahu Says of UN Resolution. ‘We Were Here Much Earlier’

By Patrick Goodenough | December 25, 2016 | 11:33 PM EST

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu lights a Hanukkia at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City on Sunday, December 25, 2016. Alongside him is the rabbi of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinovitch. (Screenshot: Prime Minister’s Office)

(CNSNews.com) – Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday night put the U.N. Security Council resolution – which effectively declares Israel’s presence in the Old City of Jerusalem to be illegal – into historical context, pointing to the longstanding Jewish heritage there.

Speaking against the backdrop of the Western Wall, Netanyahu lit a candle for the second night of Hanukkah, the holiday that marks the rededication of the Temple after a Jewish revolt against a pagan kingdom almost 2,200 years ago.

“According to the U.N. resolution, the Maccabees did not liberate Jerusalem, they occupied Palestinian territory,” Netanyahu said. “According to the U.N. resolution, the villages that they started out from in the Modi’in area [north-west of Jerusalem], those villages and that area were occupied Palestinian territory.”

“Of course the Palestinians arrived much later,” he declared. “We were here much earlier.”

Netanyahu challenged U.N. member states that have wished Israel “Happy Hanukkah” but then also voted in favor of Friday’s resolution – which passed after the Obama administration controversially chose to abstain rather than use its veto.

“I ask those same countries that wish us a Happy Hanukkah how they could vote for a U.N. resolution which says that this place, in which we are now celebrating Hanukkah, is occupied territory?” he said.

“The Western Wall is not occupied,” he said. “The Jewish Quarter is not occupied.”

The 14 Security Council members which voted in favor of the resolution were Russia, China, Britain, France, Angola, Egypt, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Senegal, Spain, Ukraine, Uruguay and Venezuela.

As a permanent member, a “no” vote from the U.S. would have killed the measure.

At a White House Hanukkah reception earlier this month, President Obama wished the gathering “Happy Hanukkah!”

“As many times as we tell it, this 2,000-year-old tale never gets old,” he said. “In every generation, we take heart from the Maccabees’ struggle against tyranny, their fight to live in peace and practice their religion in peace. We teach our children that even in our darkest moments, a stubborn flame of hope flickers and miracles are possible.”

The location of Netanyahu’s remarks on Sunday evening is the remnant of a retaining wall on the western flank of the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism. The hilltop was the location of the biblical Temples, the earliest of which was built by King Solomon almost 1,000 years before Christ, as recounted in the Old Testament books of 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles.

Israel’s claim to Jerusalem, which it says dates back some 3,000 years, to the reign of the Jewish King David, Solomon’s father, is not recognized by the international community.

The Security Council resolution adopted on Friday describes East Jerusalem – an area that includes the Old City and Temple Mount – as “Palestinian Territory” and condemns and demands that Israel stop the construction and expansion of “settlements” there and elsewhere in the areas Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War.

Resolution 2234 also declares that the establishments of settlements in East Jerusalem and those areas “ has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law.”

Speaking in the Security Council on Friday, Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon in responding to the resolution just voted upon invoked both the Maccabees and King David.

Concluding his remarks, he held up a Bible and said, “This holy book, the Bible, contains 3,000 years of Jewish history in the land of Israel. No-one – no-one can change this history.”

Justifying the decision to abstain rather than veto the measure, Secretary of State John Kerry, said the administration’s primary objective was “to preserve the possibility of the two-state solution, which every U.S. administration for decades has agreed is the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”

In fact, despite Kerry’s “decades” claim, the first U.S. president to publicly declare support for an independent Palestinian state was President George W. Bush, in a June 2002 Rose Garden speech that reversed more than four decades of American policy.

Six years later, Bush recalled that fact: “I'm actually the first president ever to have articulated a two-state solution, two democracies living side by side with peace – in peace.”

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow