JERUSALEM - Beset by questions about Jerusalem's future in talks with the Palestinians, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reached for the Bible on Wednesday to stake out the Jewish state's contested claim on the city.
Netanyahu told a parliamentary session commemorating Israel's capture of East Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 war that "Jerusalem" and its alternative Hebrew name "Zion" appear 850 times in the Old Testament, Judaism's core canon.
"As to how many times Jerusalem is mentioned in the holy scriptures of other faiths, I recommend you check," he said.
Citing such ancestry, Israel calls all of Jerusalem its "eternal and indivisible" capital -- a designation not recognised abroad, where many powers support Arab claims to East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
The dispute is further inflamed by the fact East Jerusalem houses al-Aqsa mosque, Islam's third-holiest shrine, on a plaza that Jews revere as the vestige of two biblical Jewish temples.
Heckled by a lawmaker from Israel's Arab minority, Netanyahu offered a lesson in comparative religion from the lectern.
"Because you asked: Jerusalem is mentioned 142 times in the New Testament, and none of the 16 various Arabic names for Jerusalem is mentioned in the Koran. But in an expanded interpretation of the Koran from the 12th century, one passage is said to refer to Jerusalem," he said.