The Trump effect: PM delays vote on obstacle to negotiating Jerusalem borders

On Netanyahu’s instructions, it will wait until after US Vice President Mike Pence visits Israel on December 18.

By
December 9, 2017 21:25
2 minute read.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump at Ben Gurion International Airport

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump at Ben Gurion International Airport. (photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)

 
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed the coalition to postpone the planned final vote on a bill that would put a massive political obstacle before any Israeli leader seeking to concede parts of Jerusalem, in order not to anger the White House.

The vote was scheduled to take place on Monday, five days after US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, while saying that Israel and the Palestinians should determine its borders.

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On Netanyahu’s instructions, the vote will wait until after US Vice President Mike Pence visits Israel on December 18. He is expected to address the Knesset during his trip.

The legislation, an amendment to Basic Law: Jerusalem, would raise the number of MKs needed to give up 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.

Because the Jerusalem bill amends a Basic Law, which carries constitutional heft, it requires a 61-vote majority to pass, instead of a simple majority of the lawmakers present.Trump makes announcement about Jerusalem (Reuters)

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 it “will guarantee no changes are made in our united and eternal capital without broad consensus and support.”

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.

Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni tweeted: “The government thinks (justifiably) that the bill will embarrass the one who made such a good and important declaration about Jerusalem, so, do they think that after the Vice President isn’t in Israel it won’t embarrass them?”

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