Amendment to Jerusalem Basic Law Moves Forward

In its meeting on November 28th, the Knesset’s Constitution, Justice and Law Committee approved a pending piece of legislation designed to obstruct any future peace agreement with the Palestinians, by making it much harder for any government to give up Israeli control over any part of Jerusalem. The committee’s approval opens the way for the second and third readings of the bill in the Knesset plenary (i.e., votes that will pass the bill into law). These final votes were supposed to take place on December 11, but were postponed until after Vice President Pence’s December 18 visit to Israel.

The proposed bill includes two main elements:

(a) Obstructing a two-state agreement: As noted in previous editions of Insiders’ Jerusalem, the legislation, which is in the form of an amendment to the Basic Law, will make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for any government to reach an understanding with the Palestinians on the question of Jerusalem, by preventing the transfer of any parts of municipal Jerusalem to any foreign authority. Until now, such a transfer would have required either a simple majority of 61 out of 120 votes in the Knesset, as well as a referendum, or approval by a supermajority of 80 Knesset members. Under the new law, such a transfer of authority would be possible ONLY if approved by a supermajority of 80 Knesset members, even if a majority of Israeli citizens supported it in a referendum. This provision is to apply to “municipal Jerusalem” as defined on the day of the ratification of the law (the text of the law – Hebrew only – can be found here ).

(b) Opening the door for “Greater Jerusalem Municipality” legislation: The proposed amendment to the Jerusalem law also removes the general geographical definition of the city of Jerusalem found in the original law. As outlined by the Knesset Legal Adviser in the Knesset Committee, this provision clearly aims to remove any possible legal obstacles to future efforts to modify Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries and paves the way for the implementation of Jerusalem Minister Zeev Elkin’s (Likud) plan to excise Palestinian neighborhoods like Kafr Aqab and the Shuafat Refugee Camp – which are already isolated from Jerusalem by the separation barrier – from the Jerusalem municipality. Potentially, it also paves the way for the inclusion of Jewish settlements inside Jerusalem municipality.  As the legislative process moves forward, Minister Elkin has already started consulting the Interior Ministry and the Israeli National Security Council in order to examine the practical aspects of his initiative and ways to implement it.