The Knesset gave final approval on Tuesday, January 2, to legislation aimed at making it more difficult for any Israeli government, now or in the future, to relinquish the Palestinian parts of occupied East Jerusalem in the framework of a peace deal. The passed bill, approved by a vote of 64 to 52, is the latest blow to any remaining hopes for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It stipulates that any ceding of lands considered by Israel to be part of “united Jerusalem” (Israel’s “eternal, undivided capital”) would require a two-thirds majority vote in parliament – 80 out of 120 members of the Knesset. However, the new law is not necessarily definitive as it can be modified by a regular parliamentary majority of 61.
Formulated by Shuli Moalem-Refaeli of the far-right Jewish Home party, the legislation was passed only weeks after US President Donald Trump announced his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a declaration that sparked deadly protests throughout the occupied Palestinian territories.
The law also enables the Knesset to change the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem, which means that sectors of the city “could be declared separate entities,” a statement issued by a Knesset spokesperson reads. Israeli right-wing politicians have spoken of unilaterally gerrymandering overwhelmingly Palestinian areas out of the municipality in order to increase the percentage of its Jewish majority.
Joint List MKs fiercely opposed the bill. Hadash MK Yousef Jabareen said the new law puts the lid on a peaceful solution to the conflict, since “there is no political solution without East Jerusalem being capital of the Palestinian state.”
Hadash MK Dov Khenin said the correct name for the new law should be “The Prevention of Peace Act,” since “without a deal on Jerusalem there will be no peace. West Jerusalem should be the capital of Israel and East Jerusalem should be the capital of an independent Palestinian state established alongside the State of Israel.” Khenin warned that “[t]he real meaning of this law is that blood will be spilled,” adding that “[d]ividing Jerusalem is not only the wise way [to achieve a peace accord], it is also the Jewish way.”
Israel occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank in 1967. It later annexed East Jerusalem in a move never recognized by the international community. It claims all of Jerusalem as its united capital, while the Palestinians see the eastern sector as the capital of their future state. Donald Trump’s December 6 decision upended decades of precedent and broke with the international consensus, even though the official US position on Jerusalem remains that the city’s final status will have to be decided in negotiations between the two sides.
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