Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu vetoed a Jewish Home-party initiative Sunday to require a supermajority of 80 MKs to approve any agreement that calls for the transfer of territory in Yerushalayim to the Palestinians, prompting furious blowback from some Jewish Home members but also a commitment by Education Minister Naftali Bennett, the party chairman, to double down on his pledge to get the measure passed.
“Yerushalayim is united through deeds, not through speeches,” said the Jewish Home party in a statement. “We deeply regret that narrow political considerations should prevail over preventing the partition of Yerushalayim.”
“Unfortunately, the prime minister chose to remove the bill from today’s agenda and effectively curbed the legislative process. We are nonetheless determined to pass this bill, through the three required Knesset readings, and I am convinced we all will succeed to unite around the law and around Yerushalayim,” added Bennett in a video statement
The measure, which was spearheaded by Jewish Home MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli, called for amending Article 7 of the Basic Law: Yerushalayim, which stipulates that a simple Knesset majority can approve modifications to the “Area of the jurisdiction of Yerushalayim” and “Prohibition of the transfer of authority.” The so-called “United Jerusalem” bill would raise the threshold to 80 Knesset members, or two-thirds of the 120-seat parliament.
The proposal elicited sharp criticism from opposition leaders when it was first proposed two weeks ago.
“Bennett is destroying the chance for peace,” wrote Zionist Union Chairman Yitzhak Herzog. “Anyone who tables a proposal at this time without basis is not interested in Yerushalayim, but rather he is only interested in destroying the diplomatic process and the chance to ensure the Jewish and democratic future of the state of Israel.”
Spokespeople for the prime minister declined to answer questions for this article, but Israeli media and the Jewish Home coalition speculated that Netanyahu is trying to avoid crossing US President Donald Trump, who dispatched Middle East Envoy Jason Greenblatt and senior White House adviser Jared Kushner to Israel last week as part of an ongoing attempt to reignite the peace process.
“If a bill designed to protect Yerushalayim from diplomatic moves falls because of the veto of a Likud prime minister, what does he [Netanyahu] have in store for us with the Americans?” fumed Shuli-Moalem. “If a right-wing prime minister opposes legislation that preserves a united Yerushalayim, the government is probably right-wing, but its leader implements left-wing policies.”
The Likud faction said in a statement that “even when someone is trying to take credit for something, there are rules. One cannot table a bill regarding Yerushalayim without cooperating with the minister for Jerusalem affairs, Zeev Elkin. Jewish Home activists know full well that the prime minister supports this bill; he already supported it back in 2007.”