Israel’s Knesset passes law to prevent the government from giving up East Jerusalem

Israel’s Knesset passes law to prevent the government from giving up East Jerusalem
A general view of the Dome of the Rock (right) and al-Aqsa mosque (left) both in the al-Aqsa morque compound seen in the walled Old City of Jerusalem. A new law passed Tuesday morning prevents the government from entering into any agreement to divide the city of Jerusalem in future peace negotiations. (2014 file photo/Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images)

The Knesset — Israel’s unicameral legislature — passed a law Tuesday morning that was designed to prevent the government from entering into any agreement to divide the city of Jerusalem in future peace negotiations.

In an early morning vote, the Knesset voted 64 to 51 to pass the law, which requires any future settlement accord with the Palestinians to be submitted back to the Knesset for two-thirds approval, if that agreement cedes any portion of Jerusalem to Palestinian control.

The law essentially gives the Knesset a veto over any future settlement with the Palestinians, who claim East Jerusalem as their capital, and would be unlikely to approve any future settlement that did not include East Jerusalem in their territory.

According to the Times of Israel, the bill’s sponsor, Shuli Moalem-Refaeli said, “The State of Israel will not allow for the establishment of a Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem. Get it into your heads that Jerusalem was the capital of the Jewish people and will remain the capital of the Jewish people for all eternity.”

The pre-existing law governing the potential division of Jerusalem did not include a provision specifying how it could be amended, which allowed the bill’s backers to essentially require a super majority vote to change the status quo with only a bare majority vote at the present.

The division of Jerusalem has been a contentious issue for centuries, but the controversy has sharpened in recent weeks after President Donald Trump announced that the United States would officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move its embassy to the city. The move drew praise in Israel but was widely criticized by the international community, which called it disruptive to the prospects for future peace between Palestine and Israel.

United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley defended the move in a fiery speech on the floor of the United Nations General Assembly after that body voted to condemn the move in overwhelming numbers. In response to the vote, the Trump administration has threatened to withhold funding from the United Nations, and also to block foreign aid to countries that voted in favor of the measure.