Israel bill tightens hold on occupied Jerusalem sectors

The law means that there will be bloodshed: opposition party

epa06411060 A Palestinian runs from tear gas during clashes in al-Fawwar refugee camp, south of the West Bank city of Hebron, 31 December 2017. Clashes erupted as ongoing protests were held against US President Trump's 06 December announcement he is recognizing Jerusalem as the Israel capital and will relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.  EPA/ABED AL HASHLAMOUN
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Israel's parliament on Tuesday gave final approval to legislation aimed at making it more difficult for the government to hand the Palestinians parts of Jerusalem under any future peace deal.

The bill, approved by a 64 to 51 vote, is the latest blow to remaining hopes for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Formulated by Shuli Moalem-Refaeli of the far-right Jewish Home party, it comes weeks after US president Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital sparked deadly protests in the Palestinian territories.

It also follows a vote earlier this week by the central committee of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party in favour of extending Israeli sovereignty over settlements in the occupied West Bank.

The Likud vote was non-binding, but was a further expression of the hopes of many right-wing Israelis who oppose the creation of a Palestinian state.

The law approved Tuesday determines that any ceding of lands considered by Israel to be part of Jerusalem would necessitate a two-thirds majority vote in parliament -- 80 out of 120 members of the Knesset.

It also enables changing the municipal definition of Jerusalem, which means that sectors of the city "could be declared separate entities," a statement from parliament read.

Israeli right-wing politicians have spoken of unilaterally breaking off overwhelmingly Palestinian areas of the city in a bid to increase its Jewish majority.

The new law is however not necessarily definitive. It can be changed by a regular parliamentary majority of 61.

Israel occupied east Jerusalem and the West Bank in 1967. It later annexed east Jerusalem in a move never recognised 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.

The issue is among the most contentious in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"We've ensured the unity of Jerusalem," education minister Naftali Bennett, who heads Jewish Home, said after the vote.

"The Mount of Olives, the Old City ... will forever remain ours," he wrote on Twitter.


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Dov Henin of the opposition's mainly Arab Joint List said the new law should be called "the law to prevent peace".

"Without an agreement on Jerusalem there will be no peace," he said ahead of the final vote. "The law means that there will be bloodshed."

Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, said the Israelis were moving ahead with such measures because the US had stayed silent and signalled approval with Trump's Jerusalem declaration.

"The US adminstration is adopting the occupation's positions," Erekat, the Palestinians' longtime chief negotiator, told Palestinian radio.

"The Palestinians will fight against US and Israeli attempts to impose solutions."

Trump's December 6 decision upended decades of precedent and broke with international consensus, but maintains that Jerusalem's final status would have to be decided in negotiations between the two sides.

It has led to deep anger among Palestinians, with president Mahmud Abbas saying the US can no longer play any role in the Middle East peace process.

On Monday, Abbas said the White House "has refused to condemn Israeli colonial settlements as well as the systematic attacks and crimes of the Israeli occupation against the people of Palestine".

Speaking of the Likud vote, he said "we hope that this vote serves as a reminder for the international community that the Israeli government, with the full support of the US administration, is not interested in a just and lasting peace."