Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday requested the delay of bringing the “Greater Jerusalem Bill” for a vote during the Cabinet meeting, Israeli media reported.
The bill would annex a number of the illegal Israeli Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank to the city of Jerusalem in order to make the Jewish population greater than the Arab population.
If passed, the bill is to include the settlements of Ma’aleh Adumim, Givat Zeev, Beitar Ellit, Efrat and Gush Etzion with a total population of 150,000 to the holy city, Ynet News said.
Netanyahu told his cabinet members that the United States had asked him to give details about the bill. “We are in touch with the Americans,” Netanyahu said, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.
He added: “The Americans turned to us and inquired what the bill was about. As we have been coordinating with them until now, it is worth [to continue] talking and coordinating with them. We are working to promote and develop the settlement enterprise.”
Meanwhile, a senior American official reported by Ynet News saying that the bill is an obstacle in the way of peace.
“The US is discouraging actions that it believes will unduly distract the principals from focusing on the advancement of peace negotiations,” the senior American official told Ynet News. “The Jerusalem expansion bill was considered by the administration to be one of those actions,” he added.
However, a senior Israeli official told Haaretz that the bill is to be modified and brought to vote again. “The current version of the… bill invites international pressure and involves difficult legal issues,” the senior figure told Haaretz. “Netanyahu cannot allow himself to advance this version at this time.”
The bill was submitted by the MK Yoav Kish from the Likud and support by the Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, also from the Likud.
Describing the bill, Katz said: “This is a historic bill that would safeguard the Jewish majority in the capital and would strengthen our hold on the city. The bill doesn’t deal with diplomatic issues and its importance is certainly greater than any electoral political considerations of one party or another – and therefore there is no reason to delay [the vote].”
According to Haaretz, he added: “Guaranteeing the Jewish majority in Jerusalem is a historic mission and we should all work together to fulfil it.”
White House spokeswoman Heather Nauert said: “Some of these would be internal matters that I wouldn’t want to comment on. I know that it has to go through several steps before it would even become law.”