Bill to 'fortify Jerusalem' would require 80 MKs to change capital's boundaries

MKs from five factions submit bill that would require a supermajority vote within the Knesset to enact any change to Jerusalem's borders.

knesset plenum 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
knesset plenum 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
On the anniversary of the unification of Jerusalem, MKs from five factions representing both the coalition and the opposition submitted a bill on Thursday that would require a supermajority vote within the Knesset to enact any change to Jerusalem's borders. Coalition chairman MK Ze'ev Elkin (Likud) submitted the amendment to the Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capitol of Israel, Thursday morning. The amendment would require a special majority of 80 MKs to approve any change to the capital's borders. "Jerusalem is a city with a special status and historical significance to the Jewish people, and is its eternal capital. Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish people must be maintained whole as a legacy to future generations," said Elkin. "To that end, the Knesset must take an action that will prevent any harm to the capital of Israel. Giving up any part of Jerusalem should thus entail a supermajority and not simply a majority vote or a majority of MKs." Elkin's bill was co-signed by MK Robert Iyaltov (Israel Beiteinu), MK Avraham Michaeli (Shas) and MK Zvulun Orlev (Jewish Home) as well as opposition MKs Otniel Schneller (Kadima) and Uri Ariel (National Union). The current law requires a simple majority - 61 votes - in order to shift the capital's boundaries. The bill's sponsors argued that the amendment would "fortify the unification of Jerusalem, to ensure its future and to maintain the security of its residents." Likud Party officials emphasized that the current law defines the area of Jerusalem as the area determined on June 28, 1967, and forbids the transfer of any authority over Jerusalem to any foreign entity - diplomatic or administrative - without a majority approval from the parliament. The bill is reminiscent of a similar initiative passed in the last Knesset that would require a national referendum and supermajority approval in the Knesset before Israel could make any deals involving a retreat from the Golan Heights. That legislation was pushed through in the wake of rumors that then-prime minister Ehud Olmert was seeking to negotiate an agreement with Syria, that would presumably entail a withdrawal from at least part of the region. Also on Thursday, Schneller presented Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barakat with another private bill that would amend the Jerusalem Law to provide annual aid to invest in infrastructure and national events as part of Jerusalem's status as the capital city. A total of 54 MKs signed on to Schneller's initiative. In a speech a day earlier during a special session of the plenum to commemorate Jerusalem Day, Schneller emphasized that "the Old City and the holy sites will forever be under Israeli authority under the blue and white flag, and this bill is an expression of that." In the same speech, he lashed out against Obama, arguing that "governments and rulers are switched every four years, but Jerusalem, the eternal city, will stay under Israeli authority forever."