In Depth

Israeli ‘Greater Jerusalem’ bill paused after US pressure

Legislation to secure a Jewish majority in the holy city a ploy to annex parts of West Bank, critics claim

A bill before the Israeli parliament which would have secured a Jewish majority in Jerusalem has been delayed, following pressure from the US and concerns it would allow Israel to annex large parts of the West Bank.

What is in the bill?

The Greater Jerusalem legislation would bring some Jewish settlements built in the Palestinian West Bank under the jurisdiction of Jerusalem’s municipal authority.

It was due to be submitted for approval on Sunday to a ministerial committee but was withdrawn at the last minute after pressure from Washington, which fears it amounts to the annexation of Jewish settlements.

Does it?

Reuters reports proponents of the legislation say it “falls short of formal land annexation to Israel but will enable some 150,000 settlers to vote in Jerusalem city elections”. Intelligence minister Israel Katz, a supporter of the bill, has said this would “ensure a Jewish majority in a united Jerusalem”.

 Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital, including the eastern sector it captured along with the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the 1967 Six-Day War. However, it has not received recognition of its claim by the international community and most embassies, including that of the US, are still in Tel Aviv.

So why does the US oppose the bill?

A member of the ruling Likud Party and chairman of the coalition, David Bitan, told Army Radio a vote by the cabinet committee would be delayed because Washington told Israel the bill could impede US efforts to revive the peace talks that collapsed in 2014.

“There is American pressure that claims this is about annexation and that this could interfere with the peace process,” Bitan said.

Israeli media have reported that the US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, had conveyed “misgivings” about the legislation.

However, Bitan added: “We have to take the time to clarify matters to the Americans. Therefore, if the bill passes in a week, or in a month, it’s less problematic.”

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