Jewish Home says PM nixed bill that would’ve made dividing Jerusalem ‘impossible’
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Jewish Home says PM nixed bill that would’ve made dividing Jerusalem ‘impossible’

Naftali Bennett pledges to change Basic Law to require two-thirds Knesset approval for handing over parts of capital for peace; Likud slams 'childish politicking'

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

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)

The Jewish Home party said Sunday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vetoed a bill that would require a special two-thirds Knesset majority on any decision to divide Jerusalem 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 the bill 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.

“You can’t propose a bill on Jerusalem without working with the Minister for Jerusalem Affairs Ze’ev Elkin,” the Likud statement read. “Jewish Home apparatchiks know well that Prime Minister Netanyahu supports the bill. He supported it back in 2007. They also know that by the coalition agreements, any amendments to a [constitutional] basic law require the agreement of all coalition partners. But instead of reaching for agreement and cooperation, Jewish Home prefers childish politicking. Likud is committed to Jerusalem forever remaining united under Israeli sovereignty, so we won’t get dragged into the kindergarten [fights] of Bennett and Shaked, but rather advance a bill together with all the coalition partners.”

In a video posted to his Facebook page, Jewish Home head Naftali Bennett, a junior coalition partner who personally submitted the bill to the committee, said the prime minister had hoped to “bury” the proposal but would not succeed.

“We will pass this law,” he promised.

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.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett arrives at the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister Office in Jerusalem on June 18, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Education Minister Naftali Bennett arrives at the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister Office in Jerusalem on June 18, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“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 it can be amended, it currently can be overturned with a simple majority. Bennett’s proposal would add a clause requiring the supermajority.

A spokesman for the Jewish Home party said last week that the proposed legislation was intended to strengthen Netanyahu’s position vis-a-vis the new administration of US President Donald Trump.Last month, hours before Trump arrived in Israel during his first major foray abroad as president, Netanyahu declared that Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem’s holy sites was not up for negotiation and said the city would always be Israel’s capital.

US President Donald Trump visits the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray, in Jerusalem's Old City on May 22, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN)
US President Donald Trump visits the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray, in Jerusalem’s Old City on May 22, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN)

Trump has expressed his desire to reach a Palestinian-Israeli peace agreement, which he has described as the “ultimate deal.”

In recent months the United Nations cultural body UNESCO has passed a series of resolutions that diminish or deny the Jewish connection to Jerusalem and refer to Israel as an occupying power.

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.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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