PM Benjamin Netanyahu.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced his support for legislation that would annex settlements that are home to some 150,000 Israelis.
The “Greater Jerusalem bill” would add Gush Etzion, Efrat, Betar Illit, Givat Ze’ev and Ma’aleh Adumim to Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries, creating a greater metropolitan area and, in effect, annexing those settlements to Israel.
At the same time, the bill would turn Arab villages in the area that lie outside the West Bank security barrier, with about 100,000 residents, into an independent municipality within Greater Jerusalem.
The Prime Minister’s Office said on Wednesday that Netanyahu informed Likud MK Yoav Kisch, who drafted the bill, of his backing on Wednesday and told him to bring it to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation when the Knesset returns from its recess in October.
Kisch said he is “glad the prime minister supports this move that would strengthen the Jewish majority in the capital, through Greater Jerusalem.”
Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett said on the Knesset’s podium that his party supports the bill and will push for it to be passed quickly.
MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) came out against the proposal, saying that it “cheapens the heart of the real, holy Jerusalem, which is important to the entire Jewish people.”
Netanyahu’s backing for the legislation came as the Knesset approved legislation in a first reading requiring approval by two-thirds of all Knesset members to concede any part of Jerusalem.
The combination of the two bills would greatly expand the area for which an 80-MK vote is needed in order to give them to the Palestinians in the event of a peace treaty.
At the same time, the areas that would be annexed by the Greater Jerusalem bill are in major settlement blocs that even some on the Left say Israel would likely retain in any agreement.
The Zionist Union released a statement accusing the Likud of dividing Jerusalem.
“The municipalities proposed [for annexation] in the bill are a cover for de facto dividing Jerusalem,” a faction representative said. “It’s a cover story, adding territory in order to divide the city. Bottom line, there is no need for announcing annexations that just disrespect the holy sites that are the most important places in Jerusalem.”