push bill

Ministers push bill that could stymie East Jerusalem withdrawal

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday unanimously backed a bill that aims to make it more difficult to give up sections of Jerusalem in a future peace deal.

The basic law currently requires the consent of at least 61 MKs, a majority in the 120-member Knesset, for handing over sovereign control of any part of the capital to foreign governments or agencies, including the Palestinians.

The bill would raise that to an 80-MK minimum, or fully two-thirds of the Knesset, a threshold that likely makes it all but impossible for a future Israeli government to obtain the Knesset’s approval for withdrawing from Jerusalem.

The bill must still pass three readings and at least two committee write-ups in the Knesset, an unlikely feat in the two weeks left in the current Knesset session. It will likely not advance further until the Knesset returns from its fall recess in October.

The bill was advanced two weeks ago by Jewish Home lawmakers at the behest of Education Minister Naftali Bennett.

Jewish Home chair Naftali Bennett (R) shakes hands with Minister for Jerusalem Affiars Zeev Elkin after a vote on the so-called Regulation Bill, a controversial bill that seeks to legitimize illegal West Bank outposts, December 7, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

“We will prevent a situation like in 2000 when [then-prime minister] Ehud Barak wanted to hand over the Temple Mount and two-thirds of the Old City to [Palestinian leader Yasser] Arafat” at the Camp David talks, Bennett said Sunday in a Twitter post.

In practice, it’s not clear that the new bill would increase the threshold of votes required to withdraw from parts of Jerusalem. While the bill demands 80 votes for withdrawal, it requires only 61 to amend the law itself – for example, by lowering the 80-vote threshold. That is, under the new bill, 61 MKs could vote to reduce the threshold from 80 to 61, then vote to withdraw from parts of Jerusalem.

The original bill, proposed by Jewish Home lawmakers in early July, required 80 votes for withdrawal and a similar 80-vote minimum for changing the law, but the latter stipulation was removed by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked over concerns that it might be unconstitutional.

The bill was the subject of an angry dispute between the Jewish Home and Likud parties after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pushed off an earlier vote on it on July 2, saying its authors had failed to coordinate the bill with other coalition parties.

The delay led to a week-long negotiations period between Bennett and Likud’s Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin.

Bennett criticized Likud at the time, saying, “We are sorry narrow political considerations outweigh the need to prevent the division of Jerusalem. We will continue pushing this bill, and will do all we can to advance it in the upcoming days,” he said in a statement. “Jerusalem will be united by actions, not words.”

Likud, in turn, replied that “Jewish Home apparatchiks know well that Prime Minister Netanyahu supports the bill. He supported it back in 2007. They also know that by the coalition agreements, any amendments to a [constitutional] basic law require the agreement of all coalition partners. But instead of reaching for agreement and cooperation, Jewish Home prefers childish politicking. Likud is committed to Jerusalem forever remaining united under Israeli sovereignty, so we won’t get dragged into the kindergarten [fights] of Bennett and Shaked, but rather advance a bill together with all the coalition partners.”

In a video posted to his Facebook page, Bennett said the prime minister had hoped to “bury” the proposal but would not succeed.

“We will pass this law,” he promised.

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Dems push bill to let gun violence victims sue gun-makers

Gun manufacturers could be sued by victims of gun violence under new legislation from Democrats.

The Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act would roll back long-standing protections enjoyed by the gun industry that shields it from many lawsuits.

The bill would make firearms manufacturers and dealers liable for harm caused by the weapons they sell. The legislation is being circulated on Capitol Hill and could be released later this month, though it is not likely to pass in the Republican-controlled Congress.

“Congress passed a unique form of immunity for only one industry — and that is the gun industry,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) told The Hill in an interview.

“If you’re a carmaker and your airbags kill someone, you’re potentially liable,” continued Schiff, one of the lawmakers behind the gun control bill. “If you’re a pharmaceutical company and sell faulty drugs, you can be held liable. If you’re a liquor store and sell alcohol to minors, you can be held liable.”

“Why should it be any different for gun manufacturers?” he asked.

Congress approved the controversial Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act in 2005. It is intended to protect the gun industry from frivolous lawsuits.

The new bill would repeal these protections. Schiff is teaming up with Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) to build support for the legislation on Capitol Hill. He recently sent a Dear Colleague letter calling for an end to “immunity” for the gun industry.

The National Rifle Association did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the effort.

Democrats say the bill targets irresponsible gun dealers who sell firearms to “straw purchasers,” which act as intermediaries between dealers and criminals.

Straw purchasers often buy hundreds of guns from a dealer or manufacturer and then sell them on the black market to people who might not pass the required background checks.

Gun manufacturers and dealers who sell to suspected straw purchasers could be dragged into court under the legislation.

“There are straw purchasers who will buy dozens of the same gun,” Schiff explained. “It’s quite clear they’re not buying those guns for personal use. Who needs that many of the same gun?

“If they’re no longer immune, they’ll be more careful who they sell to,” he added.