On Sunday, the Ministerial Committee on Legislation will discuss the Greater Jerusalem Bill (“Jerusalem and its Daughters”), the requisite first step in promoting it to the Knesset floor. The bill seeks to de facto annex the three major settlement blocs – Gush Etzion, Ma’ale Adumim/E-1, and Givat Ze’ev – to the city in an unprecedented move that would constitute a consummate non-starter for any future negotiations on a two state solution. If approved by the Committee, it is expected to advance to its first reading in the Knesset on Wednesday.
- Geopolitical: This is the first practical move to unilaterally annex West Bank territories to Israel since the annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967, coupled with a massive displacement of Palestinian residents from Jerusalem. Such actions would be undertaken in contravention of international law and UN Security Council resolution 2334. The driving goal, as evidenced in statements from political officials promoting the proposals, is to erect a critical obstacle to the two states solution. The bills are designed to deepen Israeli control over the heart of East Jerusalem – the Old city and its surroundings – areas that are heavily populated by Palestinian residents and are of core significance to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. A sustainable solution would be rendered impossible should legislation be passed.
- Humanitarian: Such coercive actions would only exacerbate the indefensible conditions in the affected neighborhoods. Unlike the local authorities in the settlement blocs, which were established as separate municipalities with all the necessary physical and social infrastructures and financial resources, the neighborhoods beyond the Barrier are an integral part of East Jerusalem, bound to it by identity, and dependent upon it for the sustenance of community life, family ties, and income. History demonstrates the disingenuousness of promises to improve infrastructure and services in these areas. In fact, statements issued subsequent to the bill's introduction reiterate the goal of strengthening “governance”; if resources are at all directed to these neighborhoods, they are more likely to be allocated, and in greater measure, for policing than neighborhood improvements. Should local authorities be established – with no infrastructure on which to build and a lack of civil status to influence decision making –residents will be caught in a geographic, infrastructural and systemic state of limbo, leading to further deterioration in living conditions and rights.
- Urban: The bills seek to impose radical changes on the structure, area, and population of the city in the absence of any professional assessment of the impact such actions would have on its everyday functioning, and without the inclusion of the city’s residents – Israeli and Palestinian - in decision making. The bills’ mobilizers understand Jerusalem in a vacuum of local context or history: 140,000 people who do not reside in the city would be annexed to it and a comparable number bound to it by family and community ties and who contribute to its economy, summarily displaced; the area of the city would be doubled in size and arbitrarily disconnected from areas that have been an integral part of it for last 50 years. The prospective legislation would allow people who don’t live in Jerusalem or pay taxes toward its welfare to influence decision making in the city, denying these same rights to actual permanent residents of the city, by imposing a concept of sub-municipalities that has no precedence in Israel. Even if the neighborhoods beyond the Barrier are disconnected from Jerusalem, Israel will be held accountable for the political and humanitarian crisis that will remain within Barrier’s distance from Jerusalem.
In the coming week, Ir Amim will be releasing a comprehensive policy paper on these legislative developments and their political implications.