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Fact Sheet: Legislation to Annex West Bank Settlements

29 October 2017

The Israeli government is expected to begin approving new legislation that effectively annexes parts of the West Bank into Israel. This is a significant move that upsets the status quo substantially – it would represent the first time Israel will annex land West Bank since 1967. An initial vote was expected on Sunday, October 29th, in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, but was delayed and has not yet been rescheduled.

Key Sources:
Ir Amim, Israeli nonprofit experts on policies related to Jerusalem, can provide a detailed analysis of the legislation and its practical implications for Palestinians and Israelis, and for the final status of Jerusalem.

Shatil, New Israel Fund’s action arm, tracks legislation that affects civil society and can provide background on the legislation, process, and key players around the bill in the Knesset.

Daniel Sokatch, CEO of New Israel Fund: “Everyone who cares about a peaceful future knows that a two-state solution is impossible without some kind of negotiated compromise on Jerusalem. This move by the current government would move Israel toward unilateral annexation, thus obviating the chances for a two-state solution and resolution of the conflict. This proposed legislation hands control of Israel’s future to the hardline settler lobby. It is bad for Palestinians, bad for Israelis and bad for peace.”

This fact sheet is based on the expert analysis of Ir Amim.

The Legislation:

On Sunday, the government’s ministerial committee is expected to vote on a bill sponsored by Yoav Kish (Likud) that would make two dramatic changes to Israel’s borders:

  1. De facto annexing settlements into the Jerusalem municipality: The bill expands the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem to include the local authorities in the three settlement blocs: Ma’aleh Adumim (which also includes the E1 area), Gush Etzion, and Giv’at Ze’ev. (A previous version of the bill would have applied Israeli law to the authorities listed in the bill, which are currently subject to Israeli military law. For now, this clause has been removed.)
  2. Reducing the political power of Palestinian residents of Jerusalem: The bill downgrades the status of various Palestinian neighborhoods of Jerusalem to become municipalities within the larger Jerusalem municipality – giving them a status equal to that of the settlements that will be incorporated into the city. The specific neighborhoods mentioned are Shuafat, Kafr ‘Aqab, and Anata. Most Palestinians who live in these neighborhoods have “Jerusalem residency” status, which is not the same as Israeli citizenship but does allow residents to vote in Jerusalem’s municipal elections, to receive welfare benefits, and to travel freely within Israel. The bill establishes that municipal elections within the newly annexed settlements would take place on the same date as the elections for Jerusalem’s city council. This sets the stage for a later process that would fully merge the settlements into Jerusalem and undermine the electoral power of Palestinian residents of the city. The explanatory text that accompanies the bill explains that it is intended to change current “demographic trends” relating to Palestinian population growth in the city.

Companion Legislation: Amending Israel’s Basic Law to block a peace deal and to disenfranchise Palestinian residents of Jerusalem

The implications of the Kish bill is particularly stark when it is considered alongside another piece of legislation proposed by members of the coalition: an amendment to the Basic Law: Jerusalem, the Capital of Israel. This proposal is also reportedly intended to set the groundwork for separating Palestinians neighborhoods from the Jerusalem Municipality.

This amendment would:

  • Make it easier to alter the municipal borders of Jerusalem by changing the legal formulation for identifying the city’s borders; and
  • Make it harder to approve a final status agreement on Jerusalem by raising the threshold for the number of Knesset Members who must approve the transfer of control of territory that is currently a part of the city to any foreign government from a simple majority to 80 Knesset Members.

The effect of these changes would be to allow Palestinian areas of Jerusalem that are outside of the separation barrier to be removed from the Jerusalem municipality while also making it more difficult to transfer them to the Palestinian Authority. It would also ease the process for annexing West Bank settlements into the city.

Kish’s bill was expected to be voted on by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation on Sunday, October 29th, but this has been delayed. The amendment to the Jerusalem Basic Law has passed an initial vote in the Knesset and was the subject of Knesset committee discussions this summer.

The Process:

Every Sunday when the Knesset is in session, the Ministerial Committee on Legislation, which is chaired by the Justice Minister, meets to review pending bills. If the committee votes to approve a bill all of the Knesset Members that comprise the governing coalition are compelled to vote in favor of the bill when it is scheduled for a vote in the Knesset. Therefore, bills that are approved by the Ministerial Committee have a clear path to becoming law.

After passing out of this committee, the Knesset must still vote in support of a bill three times for it to become law.

Coalition members may appeal decisions by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation. If that happens, the coalition will not schedule a Knesset vote on the bill until the Cabinet reviews the appeal.

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