Palestinians: Law making Jerusalem division harder is a ‘declaration of war’

Abbas’s spokesman says legislation that requires a vote of 80 lawmakers to relinquish any part of capital marks ‘end of so-called political process’

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas heads the Central Committee meeting on November 25, 2017. (Osama Falah/WAFA)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas heads the Central Committee meeting on November 25, 2017. (Osama Falah/WAFA)

The Palestinian Authority accused Israel of “declaring war” on the Palestinian people Tuesday, hours after Knesset lawmakers passed a bill making it harder to relinquish parts of East Jerusalem.

Early Tuesday morning, the Knesset voted 64-51 to pass the law, which requires a special two-thirds majority majority of lawmakers — 80 of the Knesset’s 120 — to give up any part of Jerusalem, potentially complicating peace efforts with Palestinians who see the eastern part of the city as their future capital.

“This vote clearly indicates that Israel has officially declared the end of the so-called political process and has already begun to impose dictating and de facto policies,” said Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for PA President Mahmoud Abbas, in comments carried by the official Wafa news agency.

The agency said he had called the legislation “a declaration of war.”

Abu Rudeineh also called for international action against, “Israel’s uncontrolled behavior that is pushing the region into the abyss.”

“We will not allow in any way to allow such plans that are dangerous for the future of the region and the world to pass,” he said.

Palestinian chief negotiator and Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), Saeb Erekat, speaks during a press conference in the West Bank city of Jericho on February 15, 2017. (AFP/AHMAD GHARABLI)

On Monday, top Abbas aide Saeb Erekat blamed American silence and US President Donald Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital for the Knesset feeling emboldened to go ahead with the legislation.

“The US administration is adopting the occupation’s positions,” Erekat, the Palestinians’ longtime chief negotiator, told Palestinian radio. “The Palestinians will fight against US and Israeli attempts to impose solutions.”

A day earlier, Abbas called on Israel to rethink its “aggressive policies and actions against our people.”

The legislation, an amendment to the Basic Law on Jerusalem, requires 80 of the 120 MKs to support relinquishing any part of the city.

The Jerusalem Law, passed in 1980 and amended in 2000, stated: “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.”

US President Donald Trump signing a proclamation that the US government will formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, at the White House in Washington, DC, December 6, 2017. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images via JTA)

Jerusalem has been in the spotlight in recent weeks since Trump recognized the city as Israel’s capital and said he would move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

In an address from the White House earlier this month, Trump defied worldwide warnings and insisted that after repeated failures to achieve peace, a new approach was long overdue. He described his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel as merely based on reality.

The move was hailed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and by leaders across much of the Israeli political spectrum. It sparked protests across the Arab and Muslim world and violent demonstrations by the Palestinians, including a call for a new intifada from the Hamas terror group.

Trump stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites.

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.

AFP contributed to this report.

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