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Israeli ministers approve bill 'prohibiting division of Jerusalem' in future peace talks

July 16, 2017 3:13 P.M. (Updated: July 16, 2017 6:37 P.M.)
Muslim worshipers praying near the Al-Aqsa Mosque. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The Israeli ministerial committee for legislative affairs reportedly approved on Sunday a bill that “prohibits the division of Jerusalem city,” in any future Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, according to Palestinian Authority (PA)-owned news agency Wafa.

Wafa quoted an official Israeli government radio station as saying that the bill was unanimously approved by the committee, and that if passed by the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, any division of Jerusalem in peace talks would be prohibited, unless the division was supported by a vote of at least 80 MKs in favor.

While Israel has long claimed Jerusalem as its capital, this has not been recognized by the international community, with even outspoken Israel supporter US President Donald Trump seemingly backing down from his electoral campaign promise to move the US embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The highly controversial promise, which was celebrated by Israeli officials, would have been seen as the first step to a drastic abdication of longstanding US policy that has largely adhered to international standards on Israel-Palestine, which maintains East Jerusalem as an intricate part of occupied Palestinian territory to be the capital of any future Palestinian state, despite Israel’s illegal annexation of the territory in 1967.

The fate of Jerusalem has been a focal point of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for decades, with numerous tensions arising over Israeli threats regarding the status of non-Jewish religious sites in the city, and the "Judaization" of East Jerusalem through settlement construction and mass demolitions of Palestinian homes.

Earlier this month, the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization’s (UNESCO) World Heritage Committee passed a resolution rejecting Israel’s claims of sovereignty over occupied East Jerusalem.

The Old City of East Jerusalem has been the site of increasing tensions in recent days after the Israeli government closed off -- and later reopened amid heightened security measures -- the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound following a deadly shooting attack on Friday that left two Israeli police officers and three Palestinians dead.

The closure reportedly marked the first time the compound had been closed off to Muslims since 2014 and the first time since 1967 that Palestinians were restricted from attending Friday prayers.

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