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International law expert Prof. Ruth Lapidot told the Knesset Law Committee on Tuesday that the government was not violating the Basic Law: Jerusalem by negotiating with the Palestinian Authority on changes in sovereignty over various parts of the city.
The committee was discussing a private member's bill initiated by Gideon Sa'ar (Likud) to change the law so that it would take a majority of 80 MKs to change the provisions included in Articles 5 and 6. Currently, the obligatory majority is 61 MKs.
Article 5 of the Basic Law: Jerusalem states that the boundaries of the city are those established in a government declaration on June 28, 1967.
According to the second, "No authority relating to any part of Jerusalem given by law to the State of Israel or the Municipality of Jerusalem may be handed over to to any foreign entity, be it a state or an administration or any other foreign entity, either permanently or for a brief period."
Sa'ar declared during the meeting that the government was violating the law by discussing handing over parts of the city as it was determined by Israel following the absorption of east Jerusalem in June 1967. Lapidot said Sa'ar was "absolutely wrong."
The government could negotiate freely, but would have to bring whatever agreement was reached with the Palestinians to the Knesset for ratification.
Lapidot also warned that if Israel ignored the international community, which does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over east Jerusalem, it could pay a heavy price. She pointed out that the UN Security Council on August 20, 1980 had "censured in the strongest terms the enactment by Israel of the basic law on Jerusalem" and had affirmed that it "constitutes a violation of international law" and that it did not change the status of east Jerusalem as occupied territory.
Lapidot warned that "it is simply dangerous" to flout international opinion.
"If the UN Security Council decides to impose sanctions, we will be lost," she said. "We are too small a country to ignore the rest of the world."
She referred to South Africa under white rule as an example of how international sanctions had brought a regime to its knees.
Lapidot's warnings did not appear to make an impression on the MKs who attended the meeting, most of whom belonged to right-wing parties.
"What are we talking about here?" asked Avraham Ravitz (United Torah Judaism). "What should be the attitude of Israel and its legislature to the fact that the international community does not recognize [our sovereignty] over Jerusalem? Is it possible that we cannot pass a law contradicting the international legal perception - which doesn't exist in the first place?"
Moshe Sharoni (Gil) asked, "Where was the International Court of Justice in The Hague when no Jew was allowed to enter the Western Wall compound? A nation that does not respect its history does not have the right to exist. Why are we even discussing this matter?"
The bill has already passed first reading. The committee is currently preparing it for second and third (final) readings in the plenum.
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