Analysis: What everyone is getting wrong about the new Jerusalem Law

The bill is far more likely to be used to break off east Jerusalem villages from the capital than to actually block a peace treaty.

Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem
After the Knesset passed the “Jerusalem Law,” Palestinians are raging (again) and The New York Times says the two-state solution is doomed (again).
MKs from Bayit Yehudi, which proposed the bill, are applauding it as safeguarding the city from ever being divided in order to be shared with the Palestinians.
But it seems like many are missing what the bill’s most likely use will be: to split neighborhoods beyond the separation barrier from Jerusalem’s municipal borders, in accordance with Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin’s plan.
Israel raises threshold to cede parts of Jerusalem in Knesset vote, January 2, 2017 (Reuters)
Let’s face it, the part of the bill most people focused on, requiring an 80 MK vote, will probably never come to fruition. It’s something for Bayit Yehudi’s to boast about in its next election campaign, and a good indicator of where most of this coalition stands on the two-state solution and land concessions (the Times is right about that much), and little more.
All the political trickery used to approve the Oslo Accords and the Gaza disengagement – from buying off an MK by giving him a deputy minister post and the Mitsubishi that comes with it, to hauling in an MK in an ambulance from his hospital bed to vote – proves that if a prime minister wants to divide Jerusalem enough, he or she can find a way to do it.
It won’t even be as hard as the required super-majority would make it seem. The law clearly states that only an absolute majority is needed to change it, meaning that 61 votes can cancel the need for 80 votes.
It’s far more probable that another part of the bill amending Basic Law: Jerusalem will be put to use, and that is the part canceling the article that says Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries cannot be changed.
In the simplest terms: On Monday, it was illegal to divide Jerusalem. On Tuesday, it was legal.
Now, even if Jerusalem is divided, not-Jerusalem would theoretically face the same legal obstacles to being ceded up in diplomatic negotiations as the capital would: An 80-MK vote and a national referendum.
The most probable, practical implications of this bill will likely impact residents of Kafr Akab and the surrounding neighborhoods, the northeastern area, including the Shuafat refugee camp and surrounding neighborhoods, the eastern area of Sawahra and Sheikh Sa’ad, and parts of the southern village of Walaja. Elkin would like to break those areas of Jerusalem off and used the Bayit Yehudi bill as a vehicle to promote that end, adding the article about changing the capital’s municipal boundaries.
The Likud minister isn’t looking to cede those areas to an eventual Palestinian state. The idea behind his plan – which is partly secret and hasn’t been presented to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yet – is to create a new municipality for the areas beyond the barrier in order to stop a change in the city’s demographics.
Elkin argues that, in the current situation, Palestinians can easily reach those areas, marry Jerusalem residents, and their children then become residents of the capital. But a new municipality will stop that.
Since Elkin’s plan involves unilateral action, which doesn’t include reaching a peace treaty that has proven to be elusive for decades, it’s the most immediately relevant use of the new version of Basic Law: Jerusalem.