Compromise Worked Out on United Yerushalayim Bill, Ministers Say

YERUSHALAYIM -
Poll, Two Thirds of Israelis, Oppose, Dividing Yerushalayim, Jerusalem
A view of Yerushalayim’s Old City. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

After Sunday’s dramatic Cabinet meeting, in which Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu intervened to prevent the presentation of the United Yerushalayim bill to the Ministerial Law Committee, a compromise has been worked out, in which PM Netanyahu, bill sponsor Education Minister Naftali Bennett, and Yerushalayim Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin will work together to create a version of the bill that the coalition will support.

Ministers Elkin and Bennett will work intensively on the new version, their offices said, with the objective of developing the new bill in time for next week’s Ministerial Law Committee discussion on Sunday. Substantial changes in the bill are not expected, as, according to Likud sources, the problem with the bill was not in its content, but in its procedure.

On Sunday, the prime minster halted a discussion of the bill by the Ministerial Law Committee, with Likud sources claiming that MK Bennett had violated coalition rules when he tried to present the bill for legislation. This is in essence a change in a Basic Law, and according to the coalition agreement, all such legislation needs to be reviewed by all coalition members,” the sources were quoted as saying. PM Netanyahu, said the sources, was simply doing his political duty, and if MK Bennett was interested in passing the law, he should work harder to turn it into a coalition-sponsored one, not a private MK’s law. Jewish Home, MK Bennett’s party, had accused the prime minister of “hypocrisy. You unite Yerushalayim with actions, not words. We are sorry to see how politics within the coalition supersedes the importance of keeping Yerushalayim united. We will continue to fight for this law and get it approved for legislation and passed into law as soon as possible.”

Under the bill, any deal to divide Yerushalayim would not be approved unless 80 Knesset members voted for it. According to the law, the current municipal boundaries of the city will remain intact unless 80 MKs vote that they are willing to surrender part of the city to the Palestinian Authority, if and when a negotiated settlement develops between Israel and the PA that would require Israeli compromises on Yerushalayim.

The law is similar to one passed in 2014, a Basic Law that requires a referendum on land concessions of sovereign Israeli territory. If 80 MKs vote for an agreement that requires such concessions, then the referendum would be canceled. The new law would go a step beyond that, however, eliminating the possibility of a referendum on the matter altogether, and requiring a vote of 80 MKs to concede parts of the city.