TEL AVIV – Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett and Likud minister Ze’ev Elkin finally agreed Sunday night to collaborate on a bill that would require a two-thirds Knesset majority to give up any part of Jerusalem in a future peace deal with the Palestinians.
The so-called “Unified Jerusalem” bill, which would have been brought to a ministerial vote next week, was vetoed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier in the day.
“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,” a statement from the Jewish Home party read. “Jerusalem will be united by actions, not words.”
Bennett, who proposed the bill, issued his own statement slamming Netanyahu’s veto: “Unfortunately, the prime minister chose to remove this law from the agenda and in effect blocked the legislative process. We are determined to pass this law in three votes and I am convinced we will all manage to unite on the bill and on Jerusalem.”
Bennett noted that “twice in the past 15 years we were a hair’s breadth away from handing over the Temple Mount, the Mount of Olives, the City of David and three quarters of the Old City to the Palestinians by [former Prime Ministers] Barak and Olmert.”
The Likud party responded by saying the bill was put forward without the agreement of any coalition partners.
“Jewish Home apparatchiks know well that Prime Minister Netanyahu supports the bill. He supported it back in 2007,” the Likud statement read. “But instead of reaching for agreement and cooperation, Jewish Home prefers childish politicking.”
Following the harsh exchanges, however, Bennett and Elkin – who serves as minister of Jerusalem affairs – said in a joint statement that they will “work together over the next week in order to come to an agreed-upon text” that will be voted on by ministers at next week’s meeting.
According to the bill, no part of Israel’s “eternal capital” will be transferred to or shared with a foreign party, political or governmental, unless it is supported by a special Knesset majority of 80 of the 120 Knesset members.
“The purpose of this law is to unify Jerusalem forever,” Bennett said of his legislation in a statement last week. “Reaching a majority of 80 MKs in order to divide Jerusalem is impossible and has no feasibility in the Knesset, which is why this law is so important.”