Netanyahu blocks bill to prevent division of Jerusalem

The proposal would require 80 lawmakers to approve any attempt to retreat from Israeli sovereignty in any part of the capital.

AN AERIAL view of Jerusalem’s Old City and the Temple Mount. (photo credit: REUTERS)
AN AERIAL view of Jerusalem’s Old City and the Temple Mount.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday blocked controversial legislation that would have made it nearly impossible to divide Jerusalem.
The Prime Minister’s Office said Netanyahu, who made the move ahead of a planned Ministerial Committee for Legislation vote, wanted the coalition to reach consensus on what the bill would look like rather than use a version put forward by Education Minister Naftali Bennett’s Bayit Yehudi Party. To that effect, Bennett and Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin decided to work together on a new draft of the bill, to be brought to a ministerial vote next Sunday.
The Prime Minister’s Office pointed out that Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin has the right to be involved.
The bill in question would require the votes of 80 MKs to approve the concession of any part of Jerusalem. Currently, a simple majority, meaning 61 MKs, is necessary.
The coalition agreement states that Basic Laws – which are meant to form an eventual constitution, and amendments to them, such as this bill – may only be put forward with approval from all coalition parties. Coalition agreements are often flouted but tend to be cited as a reason for coalition members to block proposals of other parties.
Bennett said the bill sets a very high bar for dividing Jerusalem explaining, “twice in the last 15 years, we were a hair’s breadth away from giving away the Temple Mount, Mount of Olives, City of David and three-quarters of the Old City to the Palestinians in the time of [former prime ministers Ehud] Barak and [Ehud] Olmert.
“Netanyahu blocked the legislative process but we are determined to pass it in three readings and I’m sure we can unite around the bill and Jerusalem,” he added.
A Bayit Yehudi spokeswoman accused Netanyahu of being “all talk.”
“Jerusalem is united through actions, not speeches,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that narrow political issues came before preventing the division of Jerusalem.”
The Likud retorted by saying that Bayit Yehudi was trying to steal credit, and that a bill related to Jerusalem cannot be proposed without coordinating with Elkin.
“Bayit Yehudi knows well that Prime Minister Netanyahu supports the bill; he already supported it in 2007,” a party spokesman said. “Instead of reaching agreements through cooperation, Bayit Yehudi wants to deal in petty politics. The Likud is committed to Jerusalem always staying united under Israeli sovereignty, and we won’t be dragged into Bennett and [Justice Minister Ayelet] Shaked’s kindergarten; instead, we’ll support the bill together with our coalition partners.”
In a related development, coalition chairman David Bitan of the Likud blocked another right-wing bill that would require the government to follow through on promises to build homes to replace ones that it demolished.
The bill was proposed by Land of Israel Caucus chairman Yoav Kisch of Likud and Bezalel Smotrich of Bayit Yehudi in response to the lack of tenders for 300 homes in Beit El, which five years ago, Netanyahu pledged to market by September.
Kisch’s spokesman said Bitan removed the bill from the Ministerial Committee for Legislation’s agenda without consulting with him or giving any explanation.