A view of Kafr Akab, one of the neighborhoods behind the security barrier that would be affected by Elkin's plan. (Udi Shaham).
(photo credit: UDI SHAHAM)
The Knesset plenum is planned to vote on Monday in the second and third readings for an amendment to Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel that will raise the number of MKs needed to give up Israeli sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem to 80 MKs while also allowing the redrawing of the boundaries of the city.
The bill will essentially allow the creating of a new municipal entity for the neighborhoods behind the security barrier, and open the door to a plan advanced by Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage Minister Ze’ev Elkin that intends to do so.
While the plan has not yet been fully revealed, Elkin told The Jerusalem Post in an interview in November that Jerusalem neighborhoods that are located behind the security barrier that was constructed last decade will be cut off from the capital and a new local municipal entity will be established for them. He also said that in the first stages, a committee appointed by the Interior Ministry will govern it.
This body will govern the northern area, which consists of Kafr Akab and the surrounding neighborhoods, as well as the northeastern area, which consists of the Shuafat refugee camp and surrounding neighborhoods, the eastern area of Sawahra and a-Sheikh Sa’ad, and parts of the southern village of Walaja.
Many of the residents of these districts are originally from the Old City and surrounding neighborhoods, but due to a lack of legal municipal building planning, they moved into the area where the municipality doesn’t routinely oversee construction.
Elkin said that this plan intends to combat what he sees as a “demographic challenge” to the Jewish majority in the capital. He said that because the neighborhoods are wide open to the West Bank, Palestinians are settling in them, marrying the locals, and increasing the Arab population in Jerusalem.
“We are facing a ticking demographic time bomb,” Elkin said. “Because we have neighborhoods here in which both residents of Jerusalem [Israeli ID holders] and West Bank Palestinians live, we see a phenomenon in which people from these two groups marry, and their children are then entitled to receive an Israeli ID,” he said.
Discussing the Knesset vote, Mounir “Abu Ashraf” Zghayer, head of the local residents’ committee of Kafr Akab, told the Post on Sunday that such a move will cause a mass migration from these neighborhoods back into Jerusalem’s inner city.
“They will all return inside the city,” he said. “We will have Muslim countries such as Turkey that will be funding building licenses in the city so people could stay. There will not be even one small hole where people could live in east Jerusalem that will not be populated.”
While the plans do not maintain that Israeli IDs will be revoked from citizens, Zghayer said that many are afraid that this is just another step toward it. Residents are concerned that they will be no longer able to work in Israel and that they will be prevented from accessing al-Aksa Mosque.
This bill, submitted by MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli (Bayit Yehudi) was pushed and endorsed by her party leader Naftali Bennett.
Right-wing city councilman Arieh King told the Post he is ashamed of Bayit Yehudi MKs for advancing a bill that will essentially allow separating parts of Jerusalem.
“It will allow dividing Jerusalem with no referendum. It will allow handing away neighborhoods in Jerusalem... like they are just a simple real-estate piece, and not a part of the Holy City of Jerusalem,” he said.
“I wonder how [Agriculture Minister] Uri Ariel and [MK] Bezalel Smotrich (two representatives of the rightwing Tekuma faction) are staying in such a party that for the first time is taking a step toward actually dividing Jerusalem,” King said.