Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (Hatnua) moved on Sunday to squash a legislative initiative that would require the approval of 66 percent of the Knesset before any negotiations on the status of Jerusalem could be held with the Palestinians.
The issue arose when the ministerial legislative committee swiftly approved a bill proposed by a parliamentarian for the opposition, MK Ya’acov Litzman (UTJ). It is unusual for a bill by the opposition to pass the legislative committee.
The bill sought to mandate that negotiations on where to divide Jerusalem and whether to cede a portion of it to the Palestinians could only be held with the approval of 80 of the Knesset’s 120 parliamentarians.
Livni, who is Israel’s chief negotiator with the Palestinians, immediately filed an objection to the bill, because such legislation would tie the hands of any negotiating team, including hers, that sought a final status agreement for a two-state solution.
The objection freezes the bill, which would also need the Knesset’s approval before it could pass into law.
During the nine-month negotiation process with the Palestinians which began in July and is expected to end in March, all core issues – including Jerusalem – are on the table.
In an article published last week by the American magazine The New Republic, writer Ben Birnbaum speculated that Netanyahu could be preparing to divide Jerusalem, because he has not mentioned the topic of a united Jerusalem since his reelection in January.
Meretz party leader MK Zahava Gal-On said in response to Sunday’s vote that this bill was “another nail, maybe the last one, in the coffin of the negotiations with the Palestinians. There won’t be peace with the Palestinians without dividing Jerusalem.”
Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel, along with Senior Citizens Minister Uri Orbach, both of the Bayit Yehudi Party, supported the bill.
Ariel said that he would have wanted the threshold limit for the bill’s approval in the Knesset to be even higher than 66%.
No official count was given of how many ministers were present for the vote or which Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu ministers supported it. Ministers from Hatnua and Yesh Atid opposed it.
The Prime Minister’s Office would not comment on the matter.
Stay on top of the news - get the Jerusalem Post headlines direct to your inbox!