Haaretz’s Tempest In A Teapot Over Jerusalem Bill

It’s somewhat amusing to see how the Haaretz newspaper – the icon of Israel’s left-wing media – remains optimistic even in the face of major “setbacks.”

For instance, Israel’s ministerial committee on legislation – whose “yea” decisions on proposed bills means the coalition parties must support them when they come up for Knesset vote – just approved a whopper of a victory for united-Jerusalem lovers. It passed a bill as a Basic Law stipulating that if any future Israeli government signs an agreement to divide Jerusalem, the Knesset must ratify it with a majority of at least 80 MKs (out of 120). That is, if even 41 MKs say “no division,” or abstain, leaving 79 to approve the division, Jerusalem will remain united.

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How did Haaretz respond? By noting that the new bill “does not necessarily” prevail over another Basic Law calling for a “different procedure” to give away territory.

Seeking to hearten those who support the division of Jerusalem, the paper then quotes an unnamed “jurist” who “checked out both laws” and said, “The new bill will have to include specific clarifications in order for it to prevail over the first one.”

In other words, the new bill that essentially prevents giving away parts of the Holy City to foreign rule is really not so effective, Haaretz tells us, and there is little need for two-state champions to worry.

In fact, however, Haaretz has stirred up a tempest in a teapot. If we analyze how the two laws actually differ, we find the following: In March 2014, the Knesset passed “Basic Law: Referendum.” It states that if the Knesset has voted to cede control over sovereign parts of the state of Israel, a plebiscite must be held to ratify the decision – unless at least 80 MKs voted for the decision.

What exactly is the contradiction? According to both bills, if 80 MKs vote for division, no referendum is needed and the city will be divided, Heaven forbid. If between 61 and 79 MKs vote for division, the new bill states that the division is thwarted, period – while according to the first bill, division can still happen if a majority of the populace agrees. It would seem obvious that since the Knesset is familiar with its laws, the second bill comes to add to the first bill by saying, “Jerusalem is special. Every other territory can be ceded by fewer than 80 MKs plus a referendum, while Jerusalem cannot: If fewer than 80 MKs vote for division, the city remains whole and united under Israeli sovereignty, no matter what.”

And if this is not clear, all that need be done is to insert these words: “No referendum is needed.” No big deal – unless you’re Haaretz, trying to grasp at any straw.

One of the sponsors of the bill, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, explained its importance: “Twice before, our capital city has been saved from the catastrophe of division, led by Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, respectively, when they each happened to have a temporary majority in the Knesset. That’s now over… A consensus in favor of this united Jerusalem bill will strengthen our position in the world and prevent future pressures upon Israel.”

The desperately sad reaction by Peace Now provides another dimension to the value of the bill. The radical left-wing organization stated that the law’s goal is “to prevent any future scenario of open dialogue with the Palestinians and… an agreement.” In actuality, it does not prevent dialogue; it prevents only discussion of Jerusalem. This is good for the Arab side as well, placing the dispute in its true perspective and enabling both sides to focus only on what they can realistically obtain.

In truth, however, when Bennett says the bill will prevent future pressures on Israel, he might also be somewhat exaggerating. This is because both Basic Laws discussed here have one major flaw: They can be overridden by a 61-MK majority. If, therefore, a prime minister wishes to win a Nobel Peace Prize by dividing Jerusalem, all he has to do is first cancel the Referendum and Jerusalem bills with his coalition majority, buttressed by Arab and opposition MKs, and then use the same majority to give away the specified territories.

As such, the “whopper victory” mentioned above is only on paper and in spirit, which while important in and of itself does not indicate that pro-Jerusalem forces can let up their guard for even a moment.

Meanwhile, another bill has been removed from the table – one that has been discussed widely in this column, and will continue to be. It is the “Greater Jerusalem” law, calling for the inclusion of many Jerusalem suburbs into the capital and thus strengthening the entire area. Our KeepJerusalem organization, which has been actively promoting this program in many ways, will continue to do so, in the knowledge that as public awareness of “Greater Jerusalem” grows, so will the pressure upon our politicians to implement it on the ground.

To conclude on a particularly positive note, Jews were permitted to pray this week on the Temple Mount for the first time in many centuries. It happened because the holy site remained totally Muslim-free as Muslims protested Israel’s logical installment of magnetometers there. With no one there to stop them, or to intimidate the Israeli police into stopping them, visiting Jews were able – within reason – to offer up prayers from the complex that serves as the conduit for prayer from all over the world.

To help spread the message and ensure that Jerusalem remains Jewish and united under Israeli sovereignty, KeepJerusalem.org invites you to participate in our eastern and northern Jerusalem bus tours. For information, send an e-mail to tours@keepjerusalem.org or visit our website at www.keepjerusalem.org.

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