Likud Beytenu, Bayit Yehudi skip out on vote to keep Jerusalem whole

The proposal would require 80 MKs to vote for negotiations to divide Jerusalem; most right-wing lawmakers were no shows.

Jerusalem Western Wall, Dome of the Rock 521 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Jerusalem Western Wall, Dome of the Rock 521
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Most right-wing lawmakers on Wednesday skipped a vote on a bill that would require two-thirds of the Knesset’s approval before the government could negotiate on Jerusalem’s status.
The bill, proposed by United Torah Judaism MK Ya’acov Litzman, was voted down with 12 MKs in favor and 51 opposed.
Litzman’s proposal would require 80 MKs to vote in favor of negotiations to divide Jerusalem in order for them to proceed.
“It cannot be that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will break the promise he made at this stage, that Jerusalem is non-negotiable,” Litzman said.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said the government opposes the bill, calling it a “cynical use of the most important place to every Jew, in order to embarrass the coalition. Jerusalem is not just a capital and our connection to it is not just religious, nor is it monopolized by one party.”
Livni also said peace talks will come to an end if the bill passes, and that would be more harmful to Israel than dividing Jerusalem.
Litzman said he does not believe Livni is representing the government, because “if Netanyahu agreed with that, he would be the head of Meretz, not the Likud. That is not the Likud position.”
“Unfortunately, those who call themselves a right-wing government decided to give up on an opportunity to protect Jerusalem, the eternal, united capital of the Jewish people,” Shas leader Arye Deri said.
The bill was approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday, with the support of Likud Beytenu and Bayit Yehudi ministers, but Hatnua and Yesh Atid ministers appealed the vote.
The parties supporting the bill walked out on Wednesday, rather than vote against a measure to make it more difficult to divide Jerusalem.
No Bayit Yehudi MKs were in the room, though many, including party head Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, were spotted in the adjacent cafeteria shortly before voting began.
Senior party sources said it was unfortunate Litzman didn’t coordinate with Bayit Yehudi, because now the bill will be buried for months.
“The coalition opposed the bill, but Bayit Yehudi and the Likud refused to vote against it. MK Litzman harmed Jerusalem by bringing the bill to a vote, and he knows it,” a Bayit Yehudi spokesman said.
Similarly, MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud Beytenu) said before the vote that he is concerned that if the bill does not pass, it will look like the Knesset approved of dividing Jerusalem.
The only Likud Beytenu lawmakers present for the vote were MK Moshe Feiglin, who voted in favor, and Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan and Rivlin, who announced they were not participating.
A senior Likud source said MKs were preparing for the party’s convention Wednesday evening, but many were still in the Knesset building at the time of the vote.
One Yesh Atid MK, Pnina Tamnu-Shata, did not vote with the coalition, choosing instead to abstain, with permission from party leader Yair Lapid.