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1:24, 03 January 2018

Netanyahu Allies Rethink Remapping of Jerusalem


Netanyahu Allies Rethink Remapping of Jerusalem

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JERUSALEM — Hours after the Israeli Parliament approved new obstacles to a land-for-peace deal with the Palestinians, left-wing activists took some solace on Tuesday in a choice by appropriate-wing lawmakers to jettison 1 element of their program.

The surprise move came about 3 a.m., when members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition stripped from a bill they were about to enact language that would have made it simpler to exclude Palestinians from the map of Jerusalem.

The choice was tactical, not philosophical, but left-wing activists hoped it would give them a chance to fight another day.

The provision removed from the bill would have permitted the municipal map of Jerusalem to be redrawn without a parliamentary vote on the new boundaries. That, in turn, would have smoothed the way for a proposal to exclude from the city many densely populated Palestinian neighborhoods that are outside the security barrier Israel erected to avert terrorist attacks.

Coming amid a wave of efforts by members of the coalition to throw new obstacles in the path of a two-state answer, the move cheered supporters of a Palestinian state, who have observed small else to applaud in the weeks given that President Trump, reversing United States policy, recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Advocates for Palestinian rights and for a two-state remedy had worried that the measure would support produce what some said would be Israel’s first “Bantustans” on the border between Jerusalem and the West Bank — overcrowded communities left to fend for themselves without any political energy, either in Israel or under the Palestinian Authority. The reference was to the apartheid South Africa territories.

In dropping the measure, the right wing had precisely the opposite objective: It wants to block a two-state resolution by maintaining Jerusalem intact and making certain that components of it will in no way be turned more than to the Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem for their capital.

Naftali Bennett, the education minister who leads the proper-wing Jewish Property party, stated he had changed his stance on the municipal-boundaries language soon after aggressive lobbying by activists, like David Be’eri, a controversial leader of efforts to obtain home from Arabs in East Jerusalem and lease it to Jews.

In an interview, Mr. Bennett stated the activists had sketched out a plausible chain of events: Beneath the language they objected to, if a left-wing government were to obtain power, it could redraw the Jerusalem map to generate a new municipality in East Jerusalem — perhaps named “Al Quds,” he stated, the Arabic name for Jerusalem.

“Now, it is only a municipal boundary,” he mentioned. “But the whole world gets utilised to it — that there’s one thing else that’s Al Quds. And very quickly, the perception would be that Al Quds is not Jerusalem. And then, to do the diplomatic move of severing it and handing it to the P.A. would be much less difficult.”

“And who would’ve been the ones who allowed that?” Mr. Bennett added. “The appropriate wing. They’d say, ‘You’re the guys who legislated this.’ ”

Mr. Bennett was a co-sponsor of the bill that contained the language enabling the Jerusalem map to be redrawn, but he was responsible for a distinct element of it, which raised the threshold for ratifying any peace deal involving ceding parts of Jerusalem. It demands 80 votes out of 120 in the Knesset, a forbidding supermajority.

That part of the bill was enacted, prompting howls from the left and a broadside from the Palestinian Authority, whose best spokesman mentioned Tuesday that it amounted to “declaring war on the Palestinian individuals and their political and religious identity.”

The measure on redrawing the Jerusalem city map, by contrast, would have impacted only a few regions, like Kufr Aqab and the Shuafat refugee camp, that have been largely abandoned by the city due to the fact of issues for the safety of its staff outdoors the safety barrier. This has turned them into teeming boomtowns of illegal construction, exactly where estimates say the population has soared to between 70,000 to 150,000 folks.

Hagai Agmon-Snir, director of the nonpartisan Jerusalem Intercultural Center, said the possibility of excising these areas from the city had set off alarm bells across the political spectrum. “There’s a consensus amongst all Jerusalem activists, appropriate and left, that this is not a excellent notion, because it is not steady,” Mr. Agmon-Snir mentioned.

Making a new neighborhood governing body would take years, and in the meantime, the Jerusalem municipality “will not invest a cent there,” he said. Before any new nearby government could get up and operating, he mentioned, “Kufr Aqab and Shuafat are confident to collapse.”

However the idea’s principal proponent, Ze’ev Elkin, a Likud member who is minister of Jerusalem affairs, insisted by way of a spokeswoman that he would continue to pursue it. The bill that was passed demands the prime minister to obtain approval in the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament, for any map modifications.

Left-wing groups hardly crowed about the mixed result.

“The thought was in the air, it was nearly realized, and I don’t believe it will go away so quickly,” stated Aviv Tatarsky of Ir Amim, a Jerusalem advocacy group that fought against the whole bill. “The peace camp and the Palestinians can’t rely on the very good will of the Jewish Property party.”

And Ronit Sela, a specialist on human rights in the occupied territories for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, said she was mystified by the last-minute modify in the legislation, but welcomed the likelihood to lobby against Mr. Elkin’s thought yet another day.

“We are up for fighting it,” she stated, “and if it’s in the Knesset we have a lot more tools and it is a longer selection-generating approach, than if the government just did this and radically changed the lives of so many individuals.”

Gabby Sobelman contributed reporting from Rehovot, Israel.

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Published at Tue, 02 Jan 2018 23:23:55 +0000


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