Israeli MPs pass law impeding possible E. Jerusalem secession vote
Under the new legislation, Israel’s 120-seat Knesset would have to cast 80 votes in favor of relinquishing any part of Jerusalem, rather than the 61 required before by default. The bill, which was proposed last summer by the far-right Jewish Home coalition party, was passed by a majority of 64 to 52, according to the Times of Israel.
The office of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas responded to the passage of the law with a statement, which said that Israeli lawmakers had de facto declared a war against Palestinians and Islam’s holy sites in Jerusalem’s old city.
Israel occupied Eastern Jerusalem during the 1967 war and annexed it in 1980. The move was not recognized by the international community. The Jewish state considers the city to be its undivided capital, which conflicts with the vision of a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, which sees Eastern Jerusalem as capital of the future Palestinian state. The amendment to Israel’s Jerusalem Law is intended to prevent such an outcome, Jewish Home’s Shulamit Mualem-Rafaeli said.
“The state of Israel will not allow for the establishment of a Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem. Get it into your heads that Jerusalem was the capital of the Jewish people and will remain the capital of the Jewish people for all eternity,” she said.
Interestingly, the bill also opens a hypothetical possibility for partitioning Jerusalem by allowing a change of the city’s municipal borders and creating new municipalities, which was previously not possible under Israeli law, noted the Jerusalem Post. The caveat was added at the insistence of Israeli Minister for Jerusalem Affairs Ze’ev Elkin, who seeks to formally exclude Arab-populated villages – located outside of the separation barrier – from the city.
The new law was passed less than a month after the US recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, sparking protests in the Muslim world and international condemnation. The administration of Donald Trump said the recognition merely acknowledged the situation on the ground, and tried to pressure other nations at the UN General Assembly not to vote for a non-binding resolution criticizing the decision. Failing that, Washington announced it would slash funding for various US programs and aid to individual states.
Some critics in Israel pointed out that the amendment was redundant, considering that the Israeli law already required a similar two-third plenum for handing over territory in a land-for-peace deal. The sponsors of the bill are merely trying to whip up support among their voter base before a possible early Knesset election in Israel, according to commentators quoted by Reuters.
The far-right Jewish Home would be competing for the votes against the ruling right-wing Likud party, which is currently on the defensive due to two criminal investigations targeting its leader, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The PM is suspected of corruption but denies wrongdoing. Under pressure, Netanyahu may be tempted to call early election in a bid to confirm his mandate from the Israeli public.
On Sunday, the Likud party unanimously called on the Knesset to pass a law annexing the illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.