PM Holds Up Discussion of Greater Yerushalayim Bill Over U.S., Coalition Concerns

YERUSHALAYIM -
An aerial view of Yerushalayim.

The Ministerial Law Committee will not discuss Sunday, as had been scheduled, the Greater Yerushalayim bill, which would expand the city’s municipal boundaries to include communities outside the city, including Givat Ze’ev, Maale Adumim, most of Gush Etzion, Beitar Illit and others. The law would expand the municipal authority of the city to these communities, although they would remain independent in managing their own budget and expenses.

The delay is said to be due to coalition differences over the “French Law” – legislation that would prevent a sitting prime minister from being subjected to police inquiries. According to weekend media reports, Likud whip MK David Bitan is determined to bring that law to a Knesset vote, even though it is opposed by several coalition partners, especially Jewish Home. The reports said that Bitan would hold up ministerial discussions of all laws proposed by coalition partners, such as the Greater Yerushalayim law, until they agreed to support the law regarding police inquiries.

According to the legislation, it would be up to the Knesset to boot a prime minister out of office and vote in a new one if the current head of government is suspected of wrongdoing. The law would not apply to the current cases against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, but it would prevent police from opening a new investigation against him. Speaking at Sunday’s Cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said that he was “not interested in any law that deals with inquiries currently open against me, or that are being conducted that have nothing to do with me.”

Regarding the Greater Yerushalayim law, Netanyahu said that he had sought to slow down its legislation because of American concerns. “We are in contact with the Americans over this bill; they asked us to give them a chance to understand what it is all about. As we have cooperated with them until now, we will continue to do so. We are working to expand Jewish settlement, and that is our only purpose here.”

At a press conference last Thursday, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said regarding the bill that “my understanding is that the piece of legislation is in the early stages of development. Some of these would be internal matters that I wouldn’t want to comment on. I know that it has to go through several steps before it would even become law,” a statement that was widely taken by Israeli commentators to mean that the U.S. would not intervene to oppose the law.

According to Yediot Acharonot, several coalition partners, including United Torah Judaism and Kulanu, oppose parts of the law as it is currently written. If approved for legislation, the law, like all others, would be put up for an initial Knesset vote and then go to the committee in preparation for its final Knesset approval.