Bill that would hinder negotiating Jerusalem’s borders goes to final vote

The legislation, an amendment to Basic Law: Jerusalem, would raise the number of MKs needed to give up Israeli sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem to 80 MKs, two-thirds of the Knesset.

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December 7, 2017 16:38
2 minute read.
KNESSET

THE KNESSET building.. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

 
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A bill that will put a massive political obstacle before any Israeli leader seeking to concede parts of Jerusalem in a diplomatic agreement is expected to become law on Monday.

The vote is scheduled to take place five days after US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, but said Israel and the Palestinians should determine its borders.

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The legislation, an amendment to Basic Law: Jerusalem, would raise the number of MKs needed to give up Israeli sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem to 80 MKs, two-thirds of the Knesset.

However, it does not preclude the government from making predominately Arab areas of Jerusalem into a new municipality and giving them up in negotiations. Still, doing so would be subject to a referendum, in accordance with a different Basic Law.

Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett pushed the bill, which was submitted by MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli of his party.

Bennett argued that “for 25 years, talks of peace failed, because they were always based on the illusion of carving up Jerusalem. This week, President Trump took a bold step toward peace, making it clear Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.”

Passing the Jerusalem bill is another step toward making peace, the education minister added, because passing it “will guarantee no changes are made in our united and eternal capital without broad consensus and support.”

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Moalem-Refaeli said “claims that the Jerusalem bill hurts Israel in the international community don’t hold water.”

After Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital, it is only natural for Israel to want to reinforce its status, she said.

“Not only do we have an opportunity in the coalition to approve the bill, we must also take advantage of the diplomatic opportunity,” Moalem-Refaeli said.

However, the opportunity in the coalition may not be as certain as Moalem-Refaeli made it seem.

Because the Jerusalem bill amends a Basic Law, which carries constitutional heft, it requires a 61-vote majority to pass.

In light of the ongoing investigation into allegations of corruption by coalition chairman David Bitan, he has been less available to whip up votes than usual. The impact of his absence was seen on Monday, when the plenum meeting was less than an hour long, because most items were taken off the agenda.

Despite Bitan’s difficulties, a Prime Minister’s Office source said the premier “will not hear of [replacing Bitan] and will certainly not deal with this as long as David says he’s staying in his job.”

Meanwhile, nearly every Likud MK who is not a minister has been jockeying for Bitan’s job.

Technically, scandal-plagued MK Oren Hazan is Bitan’s deputy. A Likud source said Hazan, who was indicted on Thursday for assaulting officials in his hometown of Ariel, was only given the job for “educational purposes” and is not a real contender to replace Bitan, should he resign from his post.

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