Addressing Israel’s parliament on Jerusalem Day 10 years ago, then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commented on the Jews’ stunning victory in the Six Day War of 1967: “The main meaning of this … victory is that Jerusalem will remain united and whole under Israeli sovereignty for eternity.” During that same Knesset celebration, outgoing Labor Chairman Shimon Peres, Netanyahu’s political rival, said Jerusalem “must be recognized as the indivisible capital of Israel. We cannot allow it to be wounded or divided again.” Ehud Olmert, Jerusalem’s mayor at the time, also weighed in on the importance of keeping Jerusalem united: “Only as one city, as the capital of one people, will it continue to exist, to flourish and to be built.”
Many Israeli commentators believe Olmert’s slogan (“Peres will divide Jerusalem”) is what catapaulted Ehud Barak to leadership of the Labor Party in 1997. According to Barak, Labor’s position on Jerusalem would never change: “Jerusalem’s unity and Israeli sovereignty in the united Jerusalem are a cornerstone of our policy. This is how the Labor-led government acted in the past and this is how we will act in the future” (Jerusalem Post, Dec. 11, 1997).