Ministers are set to vote on Sunday on a controversial Jerusalem bill that would annex 19 West Bank settlements to the city of Jerusalem and downgrade the status of three Arab neighborhoods of the city that are beyond the security barrier.
Opponents of the bill have charged that the legislation is tantamount to annexation.
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“If passed, this bill will constitute a de facto annexation and a clear step towards a de jure annexation. We cannot let this bill become law!” the left-wing group Peace Now said.
But a spokesman for the initial author of the bill, MK Yoav Kisch, said that the bill would constitute “municipal annexation” but would not apply sovereignty to the settlements, with their population of 150,000.
Separately, the bill also takes the three Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem outside the security barrier – Kafr Akab, Shuafat and Anata – and makes them sub-municipalities of the city. The three neighborhoods constitute around 100,000 people.
A March version of the bill stated that the settlements “would be annexed to Israel and would be part of Jerusalem.”
The latest version, drafted in October, states only that these settlements “would be part of Jerusalem. In this way a population will be added to Jerusalem that would enable a demographic balance and provide land for additional housing, commerce and tourism.”
The idea, which has been heavily promoted by Transportation Minister Israel Katz, is based on the concept of greater London.
He said the intent of the legislation is to “ensure a Jewish majority in the united city and to expand its borders by adding 150,000 residents to the area of a greater Jerusalem.”
“It’s an unequivocal response to all those in the international community who are questioning the Jewish people’s right to Jerusalem,” Katz said.
Residents of the 19 settlements would have voting rights in Jerusalem, but would maintain their own local governments, which would be considered sub-municipalities.
The bill includes the settlements of Ma’aleh Adumim, Givat Ze’ev, Betar Illit, Efrat and the communities that fall under the auspices of the Gush Etzion Regional Council.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already stated that he would support the legislation, and so it is presumed that it will be passed this Sunday by the Ministerial Legislative Committee. It would then need the approval of the Knesset before it could become law.