Jerusalem affairs minister backs plan to counter demographic threat

Ze'ev Elkin is currently pushing for an amendment to be made to the Basic Law to change the capital's borders.

November 8, 2017 08:33
3 minute read.
Kafr Akab

SINCE IT was separated from central Jerusalem by the security barrier, numerous illegal highrise buildings have been constructed in the Kafr Akab neighborhood.. (photo credit: UDI SHAHAM)


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Approving the proposed legislative amendments dubbed as the “Jerusalem Bill” is the most effective way to overcome the “demographic challenge” and fortify the Jewish majority in the capital, according to Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin.

In a special Knesset discussion initiated by MK Yoel Hasson (Zionist Union) on the future of east Jerusalem, Elkin said creating a different municipal entity for the Jerusalem neighborhoods that were left beyond the security barrier, is the only solution to maintaining a stable situation and Jewish sovereignty over the capital at the same time.

Elkin is currently pushing for an amendment to be made to the Basic Law: Jerusalem is the Capital of Israel that will allow changing the municipal borders of the city within the lines that were decided upon after the Six Day War.

There are two main blocs of neighborhoods located beyond the security fence (constructed in 2004) that are considered part of Jerusalem – the Kafr Akab bloc in the north and the Shuafat refugee camp in the northeast.

Essentially this means there would be two Jerusalem municipalities.

While the Jerusalem Municipality says that only 51,340 residents are living in these blocs, left-wing NGO Ir Amim says the two area together have some 120,000 residents.

At the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies’ inaugural conference on Monday, Elkin, who sides with Ir Amim on the numbers, said that due to lack of proper oversight in these neighborhoods, Palestinian residents from the West Bank are infiltrating and settling in the capital.

“Most people living in these neighborhoods are Palestinians who have free access to get inside because there is no wall to stop them,” he said.

Elkin holds that establishing a new municipal entity – only for these neighborhoods that will be separated from the Jerusalem Municipality – will solve what he calls “the demographic threat to the Jewish Jerusalem,” and will strengthen the governance in these areas, which almost no Israeli service provider has entered since 2004 due to security reasons.

“If we will maintain a situation in which we allow free Palestinian migration from the West Bank into the municipal territory of Jerusalem and [we don’t assess] its influence – meaning people could essentially vote to the municipally – this demographic challenge will remain with us for a long, long time, and eventually we will lose the Jewish majority in the city,” he said.

Elkin rejects criticism from the right, saying that creating different municipal entity in east Jerusalem will eventually lead to handing it over to the Palestinian Authority.

“In no way do I mean that we should give up our sovereignty there,” he said, and added that this new municipal entity could allow the state to reevaluate the way it provides services in these neighborhoods.

But Elkin faces a strong resistance from the Left and Right, both in and out of the Knesset against such a move.

In a discussion held on Tuesday at the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, MK Yehudah Glick (Likud) said he “does not understand how the right is advancing a law that effectively divides Jerusalem.”

“Over the years we have dreamed about a Jerusalem that stretches all the way to Damascus, not about its reduction,” he said.

Ir Amim’s policy development director Oshrat Maimon said this law is setting the stage to cut off a third of Jerusalem’s Arab residents from their own city.

“This one-sided move will only nurture hostility and despair. It will lead to further violence in the city. It will weaken the power of these neighborhoods’ residents and will cause a severe blow to the two states solution,” she said.

Another fierce objector to the move is Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.

In a statement sent to The Jerusalem Post, he said, “We should not run away from the challenge because it will get to us. The only way to deal with these neighborhoods is to apply our sovereignty, strengthen the security measures and invest in economic development and in quality of life.

“The Jerusalem Municipality is the only one who knows how to provide civil services to the neighborhoods being the wall,” Barkat said, adding that he will present his opinion on the matter to the National Security Council.

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