Senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi said Israeli plans to incorporate West Bank settlement blocs around Jerusalem into the city could kill hopes for an independent Palestinian state.
A member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party has said that draft legislation to form a “Greater Jerusalem” municipality would go to a ministerial committee on Sunday for adoption as a government bill.
Approval by the committee would fast-track its progress through parliament.
Those opposed to the plans argue that it is a step towards full unilateral annexation of the West Bank settlements affected — a move that would be sure to spark international outrage. According to the proposal, initiated by Likud MK Yoav Kisch, and backed in July by Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz, residents of those settlements would be able to vote in Jerusalem municipal elections, but the settlements would not be under full Israeli sovereignty. “The government will approve the Greater Jerusalem law that will strengthen the eternal capital Jerusalem — demographically and geographically,” Kisch wrote Wednesday on Twitter.
Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee, said late Wednesday in a statement that “such efforts represent the end of the two-state solution.”
“Israel is in the business of prolonging the military occupation and not ending it, legalizing the presence of extremist Jewish settlers on Palestinian soil, and completing the total isolation and annexation of Palestinian Jerusalem,” she said.
Israel took control of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1967’s Six Day War. It later annexed East Jerusalem in a move never recognized by most of the international community.
Israel sees the entire city as its indivisible capital, while the Palestinians want the eastern sector as the capital of their future state.
Prominent members of Netanyahu’s coalition openly oppose the idea of a Palestinian state and advocate annexing most of the West Bank.
The major settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, east of Jerusalem, would be among the areas absorbed into the enlarged city limits under the draft legislation, according to an explanatory note by its sponsors.
The settlements mentioned, however, would not be fully annexed to Israel.
Also incorporated would be the ultra-Orthodox Jewish settlement of Beitar Illit, southwest of Jerusalem, the Gush Etzion settlement council to the south and Efrat and Givat Ze’ev.
“The settlements joined to Jerusalem will maintain certain municipal autonomy, since they will be considered sub-municipalities of Jerusalem,” the draft bill says.
The wording of the bill means the settlements would be annexed to the city of Jerusalem rather than to the state of Israel.
But left-wing activist group Peace Now said any difference was purely cosmetic.
“The meaning of the bill is a de facto annexation of these territories to Israel, even if it would be possible to argue that this will not constitute de jure annexation,” it said in a statement.