Jewish Home, Likud to collaborate on ‘Unified Jerusalem’ bill
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Jewish Home, Likud to collaborate on ‘Unified Jerusalem’ bill

Ending coalition spat, Naftali Bennett and Ze'ev Elkin say they'll reformulate proposal to require supermajority for handing over parts of capital for peace

Raoul Wootliff covers politics, corruption and crime for The Times of Israel.

Jewish Home chair Naftali Bennett (R) shakes hands with Minister for Jerusalem Affiars Zeev Elkin after a vote on the so-called Regulation Bill, a controversial bill that seeks to legitimize illegal West Bank outposts, December 7, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Jewish Home chair Naftali Bennett (R) shakes hands with Minister for Jerusalem Affiars Zeev Elkin after a vote on the so-called Regulation Bill, a controversial bill that seeks to legitimize illegal West Bank outposts, December 7, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

After a fallout between the two coalition parties over a proposal to make it harder to cede Israeli control over parts of Jerusalem, Jewish Home chair Naftali Bennett and Likud minister Ze’ev Elkin agreed Sunday night to work together in order to bring the legislation to a ministerial vote next week.

Jewish Home said earlier in the day that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had vetoed the “Unified Jerusalem” bill that would require a special two-thirds Knesset supermajority to pass any decision to divide the capital city under a future peace deal with the Palestinians.

The proposal was set to face a vote in a weekly meeting of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation early Sunday afternoon, but the prime minister pulled it from the agenda at the last minute, the pro-settlement Jewish Home party said in a statement.

“We are sorry narrow political considerations outweigh the need to prevent the division of Jerusalem. We will continue pushing this bill, and will do all we can to advance it in the upcoming days,” the statement read. “Jerusalem will be united by actions, not words.”

The Likud party slammed Jewish Home’s announcement, saying the bill was proposed without seeking the cooperation of any coalition partners.

“Jewish Home apparatchiks know well that Prime Minister Netanyahu supports the bill. He supported it back in 2007,” the Likud statement read. “But instead of reaching for agreement and cooperation, Jewish Home prefers childish politicking.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a statement to the press during a visit to the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Homa on March 16, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a statement to the press during a visit to the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Homa on March 16, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Bennett, who proposed the bill, and Elkin, who serves as minister of Jerusalem affairs, said in a joint statement that they will “work together over the next week in order to come to an agreed-upon text” that will be voted on by ministers at next week’s meeting.

Bennett is seeking to amend the Basic Law on Jerusalem so that any future vote to divide the city would require the approval of 80 of the 120 MKs to pass, as opposed to a regular majority.

“The purpose of this law is to unify Jerusalem forever,” Bennett said of his legislation in a statement last week. “Reaching a majority of 80 MKs in order to divide Jerusalem is impossible and has no feasibility in the Knesset, which is why this law is so important.”

Currently the Jerusalem Law, passed in 1980 and amended in 2000, states: “No authority that is stipulated in the law of the State of Israel or of the Jerusalem Municipality may be transferred either permanently or for an allotted period of time to a foreign body, whether political, governmental or to any other similar type of foreign body.”

With no provision in the Basic Law specifying how the law can be amended, it currently can be overturned with a simple majority. Bennett’s proposal would add a clause requiring the supermajority.

Israel annexed East Jerusalem in 1980, but the move has not been recognized internationally and most countries refuse to recognize any part of the city as Israel’s capital, saying it was an issue that will need to be decided in negotiations with the Palestinians.

Neither Bennett nor Elkin would comment on what changes may be discussed in their discussions or whether the Likud, or Netanyahu, had raised objections to the bill.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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