Israel postpones Jerusalem annexation bill amid fears of international outrage

Published 29.10.2017 20:44
Updated 29.10.2017 20:46
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a weekly cabinet meeting at his Jerusalem office, Oct. 29.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a weekly cabinet meeting at his Jerusalem office, Oct. 29.

Israel postponed a controversial bill on the annexation of Jerusalem amid fears of international, particularly pressure by the U.S., which recently signaled support for a two-state solution

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that he had decided to postpone a vote on the controversial annexation bill. In the planned schedule, the bill was going to be voted upon yesterday by a ministerial committee and sent to parliament for finalization. However, Israeli officials expressed their concerns about international pressure, as the U.S. was reluctant to back Israel's move.

It is known that the Trump administration would like to re-launch peace talks between the Israeli and the Palestinian sides. Agence France-Presse (AFP) interpreted Netanyahu's declaration as the following: "It was a signal that Netanyahu wanted to first discuss the bill with the U.S. White House, which has been seeking to restart long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks."

"Its opponents argue that it is a step towards full, unilateral annexation of the affected West Bank settlements, a move that would be sure to spark international outrage. For the vast majority of the international community, the status of Israel's settlements, built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state, is to be decided in peace negotiations," the report added. Similarly, the Associated Press (AP) quoted an Israeli official, indicating that the decision was taken due to U.S. concerns. Haaretz said the reason was due to fears of international pressure.

"'The current version of the [...] bill invites international pressure and involves difficult legal issues,' said a senior figure in the governing coalition who requested anonymity," its report said. Despite the fact that Israel has changed the previously drafted bill and limited the annexation to municipal borders, harsh criticism is very likely.

"The original bill called for the full annexation to Israel of the settlements surrounding Jerusalem, but the current version, submitted by MK Yoav Kish [Likud], provides for 'municipal' but not political annexation. It would let residents of the affected settlements vote in the mayoral and city council elections as a counterweight to Palestinian voters in Jerusalem, who, in any event, rarely vote," Haaretz's report added.

Media Line also explained the bill in its report, saying: "It also aims to downgrade the status of three Palestinian neighborhoods in east Jerusalem that are beyond the barrier that Israel began building in and around the West Bank after a spate of Palestinian suicide bombings in Israel in 2002. The residents of the three neighborhoods, including the Shuafat refugee camp, will become sub-municipalities of the city, a status similar to the communities that will be added."

Prior to becoming president, Donald Trump said he had decided to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. By doing so, he would recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Yet, the international community considers the city as being under Israeli occupation. Dropping his ambitions, Trump recently said peace deserves a chance, implicitly meaning he had changed his mind.

In an interview with former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee on the TBN program "Huckabee," in early October, Trump said: "I want to give that a shot before I even think about moving the embassy to Jerusalem. If we can make peace between the Palestinians and Israel, I think it'll lead to ultimate peace in the Middle East, which has to happen." Though essaying to avoid replying to the question of when this embassy move would take place, Trump said: "We're going to make a decision in the not-too-distant future."

In effect, Israel considers the city as its indivisible capital, while the Palestinians would like the eastern part to be their future state's capital, should the two-state solution be realized. Therefore, Israeli authorities pursue a policy amid aims to drive away as many Palestinians as possible and locate as many Israelis as possible. For instance, this week a bill on the municipal assembly will be opened to discussions. The bill allows for the construction of 700 new settlements. The Times of Israel quoted Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Meir Turgeman as saying, "The plans, set to be authorized on Wednesday by the Jerusalem Planning and Building Committee, include 500 new housing units in Ramat Shlomo and 200 in nearby Ramot."

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