Ministers are scheduled to vote next week on a bill that calls for expanding the Jerusalem municipal boundaries to include four major settlements and a settlement bloc in the West Bank that are home to over 100,000 Israelis.
The Ministerial Committee for Legislation is to vote on the so-called “Greater Jerusalem” bill at its next meeting on Sunday.
Ministers were informed of the agenda on Wednesday morning, Haaretz reported.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already indicated that he would give his backing for the proposal to absorb Ma’ale Adumim, Beitar Illit and Efrat, along with the Etzion bloc of settlements, into the Jerusalem municipality, while also removing around 100,000 Palestinians from the city’s census.
Some are fairly deep in the West Bank, more than 10 kilometers (six miles) from Jerusalem. In total, they are currently home to some 130,000 Israelis.
According to the proposal, initiated by Likud MK Yoav Kisch and backed in July by Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz, residents of those settlements would be able to vote in Jerusalem municipal elections, but the settlements would not be under full Israeli sovereignty.
The move would make Jerusalem’s official demographic balance significantly more Jewish and would “bring back Jerusalem’s status as a symbol,” according to the proposal’s preamble. Residents of the settlements in question would maintain municipal autonomy through independent regional councils. They would vote in four local elections: for Jerusalem mayor, for a Jerusalem municipality council, for the head of their regional council and for members of said council.
Under the same proposal, around 100,000 people living in Palestinian neighborhoods outside the security barrier surrounding the city would be removed from the city’s census, with a new municipality built for them.
Responding to the upcoming vote, the Peace Now settlement watchdog called it a “reckless step of a government that seems to be determined to ruin the possibility for a two state solution.”
“If passed, this bill will constitute a de-facto annexation and a clear step towards a de-jure annexation. We cannot let this bill become law!” the NGO concluded.
Israel captured East Jerusalem, the Old City and the West Bank from Jordan in 1967, and extended sovereignty to the Old City and East Jerusalem in 1980 in a move never recognized by the international community.
Most nations also consider the West Bank settlements illegal under international law, as well as the formal annexation of land seized during war. Israel has maintained that the settlements are not illegal, saying that the land is disputed. Israel has controlled the West Bank since capturing it in the 1967 Six Day War, but has never moved to annex any of the territory beyond extending sovereignty to East Jerusalem. It did later apply Israeli law to the Golan Heights, captured from Syria.
Most Israeli leaders maintain that the largest settlement blocs in the West Bank will become part of Israel in any future peace deal.