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Israeli bill on Jerusalem talks makes Palestinian state 'impossible'

Oct. 22, 2013 11:58 A.M. (Updated: Oct. 22, 2013 3:08 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli lawmakers approved a bill on Sunday stipulating that a two-thirds majority of Knesset members would have to consent before the Israeli government could begin any negotiations over the status of Jerusalem.

The bill passed with a 5-4 majority through the ministerial committee in charge of approving draft legislation before being sent to the Israeli parliament.

The bill comes only a few months after the Palestinian Authority and Israel resumed peace negotiations following US pressure.

The bill would require that 80 out of 120 Knesset members vote in favor of any decision to even begin discussions of the status of Jerusalem, including the future of Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem.

Without this majority, the Israeli government will not be allowed to commence any discussions on the topic, which is one of the most central issues in the ongoing peace negotiations.

Both Israelis and Palestinians consider Jerusalem to the be the capital of their states, although Israel refuses to allow Palestinian authorities to reside in the city.

Israeli forces occupied Palestinian East Jerusalem in 1967, along with the West Bank, Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and other territories. Israeli authorities annexed East Jerusalem to the State of Israel in 1980, in a move that brought international condemnation.

Palestinian officials and onlookers denounced the move, confirming that it undermines the potential for success in the current peace talks. Meanwhile, many Israeli politicians supported the bill and a few opposed it.

"The right wing Israeli government has been trying to foil negotiations since they started," says senior Fatah leader and member of the movement’s Central Committee Jamal Muheisin. He pointed out that the suggested bill would prevent any land swap.

"Peace," he added, "can be achieved only if Israel wishes."

Similarly, coordinator of the Committee against the Judaization of Jerusalem Khadr Salamah described the bill as an "Israeli attempt to evade any commitments to the peace process."

"The bill," he added, "will mainly affect the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem as it entails continuation of settlement expansion in East Jerusalem."

Palestinian political analyst Ahmad Rafiq Awad says if the bill is passed the peace process will be meaningless. "Passing this law means a Palestinian state cannot be established because that isn't possible without the eternal capital Jerusalem," he said.

"This move by the Israeli government," added Awad, "shows that a majority of the Israelis are moving toward the extremist ultra-orthodox right wing. There is a consensus demanding that Jerusalem remains undivided and confirming that it is an eternal capital of Israel.”

On the other hand, Israeli Minister of Justice Tzipi Livni announced that she would contest the bill. "We will do everything to protect the interests of the state of Israel, and we do that through negotiations."

Commenting on the proposed bill, Livni said it is a "rude" attempt to undermine the authorities of the Israeli government, rendering it unable to make decisions and run political affairs in Israel.

"This proposal is needless because it harms the government’s independence. It is regrettable and strange that members of the coalition support it."

Meanwhile, Israeli minister of economy Naftali Bennett, who heads the right wing Jewish Home party, welcomed the bill as a "very important move."

Addressing members of his party, Bennett said that Jerusalem belonged to the successive generations of the Jewish people, "and even 120 Knesset members can’t relinquish it."

He urged Israeli premier Netanyahu to immediately submit the bill to the cabinet for approval.

"The capital of the Jewish people is not negotiable," he added

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