Knesset Committee to Vote on Greater Yerushalayim Bill

YERUSHALAYIM -

A controversial bill to effectively annex 19 communities over the Green Line to Yerushalayim has been scheduled to come before the Knesset’s Ministerial Legislative Committee for a vote on Sunday.

With Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s backing, the proposal is expected to be passed by the committee, prior to debate and voting in the full Knesset.

Residents of the 19 localities — about 150,000 people — would have voting rights in Yerushalayim, but would function as sub-municipalities running much, if not all, of their own affairs.

The enlarged capital would include Maaleh Adumim, Givat Zeev, Betar Illit, Efrat and communities of the Gush Etzion Regional Council.

At the same time, three Arab neighborhoods of Yerushalayim which are situated outside the security barrier — Kafr Akab, Shuafat and Anata — would become sub-municipalities. That would affect approximately 100,000 people.

Opponents on the left have denounced the measure as a form of annexation.

However, proponents are stressing the moderate aspects of the proposal. A spokesman for the initial author, MK Yoav Kisch (Likud), said that the bill would mean “municipal annexation” but not an extension of Israeli sovereignty to the areas in question.

Unpersuaded, Peace Now issued a statement warning that “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!”

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud), a chief backer of the idea, described the political intentions: to “ensure a Jewish majority in the united city and to expand its borders by adding 150,000 residents to the area of a greater Yerushalayim.”

“It’s an unequivocal response to all those in the international community who are questioning the Jewish people’s right to Yerushalayim,” Katz said.

“This coming Sunday I shall take part in Jewish history,” Katz proclaimed on Wednesday.

Currently, Yerushalayim has a total population of almost 900,000, including 540,000 Jews and 330,000 Arabs. The proposed expansion would increase the Jewish population to 670,000, shifting the demographic balance from 61.1 percent Jewish and 37.3 percent Arab to 67 percent Jewish and 32 percent Arab.