Katz bill will put Jerusalem rhetoric to the test

Legislation would incorporate Ma'aleh Adumim, Mevaseret Zion and Givat Ze'ev into Jerusalem.

maaleh adumim const. 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
maaleh adumim const. 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's increasingly wobbly coalition is set to face another test next week, in the form of a Likud-sponsored bill to incorporate two Jerusalem-area settlements and one suburb into the capital. On Wednesday, the Knesset plenum will hold a preliminary vote on MK Yisrael Katz's bill to extend Jerusalem's control to the settlements of Ma'aleh Adumim and Givat Ze'ev and the suburb of Mevaseret Zion. The three would retain their own local authorities and budgets, Katz said, but would be added to the municipality to "strengthen the principle of a united Jerusalem, whole and indivisible." On Sunday, the Ministerial Committee on Legislation will determine the government's position on the bill. The coalition parties Kadima, Labor, Shas and Gil Pensioners Party said Thursday they had not decided on the issue, adding that they might allow their MKs to vote as they choose. "This is a test for all the parties in the Knesset who say to the media that they will fight for a united Jerusalem, but who don't act for this in the Knesset," said Katz, in a reference to Shas. Shas has said its continued participation in the coalition is contingent on Olmert honoring his commitment that Israel will retain control of all of Jerusalem. In a speech to the Knesset three weeks before he went to the US-sponsored Middle East conference in Annapolis, Maryland, Olmert said that parts of east Jerusalem might be handed back to the Palestinians in a final status agreement. By the time US President George W. Bush arrived in Israel last week, Olmert's line had changed, and he referred to a "whole and united" Jerusalem several times. In an interview with The Jerusalem Post two weeks ago, Olmert said that the settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim was an indivisible part of the capital. Kadima MKs said that Olmert's firm stance on the issue was meant to appease Israel Beiteinu and Shas. Israel Beiteinu's departure from the government this week has placed more pressure on Shas to withdraw from the coalition. Shas has said that it will remain in the government for the time being, to "fulfill the doctrine that Israel Beiteinu was working to accomplish," according to Shas faction chairman MK Ya'acov Margi. A party official close to Shas spiritual mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef said Thursday the party was happy in the coalition and "immune to pressure from the Right." "Many MKs from the party will likely vote in favor of the [Katz] bill, while the ministers might vote against," a Shas party official said. Katz said that even without Shas, he had enough votes to pass the bill through a first vote. Kadima MKs Ze'ev Elkin, Marina Solodkin, Avigdor Yitzhaki and Ya'acov Edri are likely to vote in favor, said Katz, as is the Gil Pensioners Party. All of the right-wing parties in the opposition, including Israel Beiteinu, the National Union-National Religious Party, United Torah Judaism and the Likud are expected to vote in favor of the bill as well.