Photo Credit: Knesset Facebook page
New coalition chairman MK David Amsalem (Likud) during Knesset debate

The Knesset plenum overnight Tuesday approved in second and third readings the bill Basic Law: Jerusalem, the Capital of Israel (Amendment No. 2), submitted by MK Shuli Mualem Refaeli (Habayit Hayehudi) and a group of Knesset members.

The bill received 64 yea votes and 52 nays.


The chairman of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, MK Nissan Slomiansky, presented the bill and said that the new law prohibits any transfer of governmental powers within the Jerusalem municipality, requiring 80 Knesset votes to approve such a transfer. However, the Knesset can amend the law with a majority of 61 votes.

The bill repeals the existing Basic Law, which says that it is forbidden to change the municipal boundaries of the capital city. In the event that government wants to remove parts of the municipal sphere to be handed to a separate authority, this would require 80 Knesset votes of support, and the removed areas would still remain under Israeli sovereignty.

Needless to say, the leftwing and Arab opposition parties were quite unhappy. MK Esawi Frej (Meretz) said the new law puts the lid on a peaceful solution to the conflict, since “there is no political solution without East Jerusalem being Palestinian.”

“All the other things will not help,” Frej said, noting that “40% of Palestinian citizens have historically lived in Jerusalem’s neighborhoods.”

MK Dov Khenin (Joint Arab List) said the correct name for the new law should be The Prevention of Peace Act, since “without a deal on Jerusalem there will be no peace. West Jerusalem should be the capital of Israel and East Jerusalem should be the capital of an independent Palestinian state established alongside the State of Israel.”

“The real meaning of this law is that blood that will be spilled,” Khenin, who is the only Jewish MK in the Arab List, warned, adding, “Dividing Jerusalem is not only the wise way, it is also the Jewish way.”

MK Isaac Herzog (Zionist Camp), who said there was noting in common between the city of Jerusalem and “the Palestinians living in villages connected to it,” noted that “for the first time, we see a crack in the coalition wall. […] The crack is opening wider […] They promote laws that do not help the average citizen, only because one man is leading the coalition – Naftali Bennett.”

The explanatory notes accompanying the bill read: “When there are signs that [some] seek to undermine the basic conventions [regarding Jewish Jerusalem] that are at the foundation of our national existence, the Knesset must act to prevent any harm to the capital of Israel.”

“Accordingly, it is proposed in the framework of the bill to determine that any change in the territory of Jerusalem, as well as a change in the provision prohibiting the transfer of authority over parts of Jerusalem to a foreign entity, will require a special majority of 80 Knesset members,” the explanatory notes said.

“The amendment of this law also has a security purpose,” the notes stressed: “Since the IDF’s withdrawal from Lebanon and the disengagement plan from the Gaza Strip have proven that terrorist elements […] enter the areas from which Israel withdraws, such a possibility must be avoided in the united city. The purpose of this amendment to the law is to strengthen the unity of Jerusalem, to ensure its future, and to safeguard its residents.”