Amendment to Basic Law: Jerusalem Approved but in Modified Form; Will Not Enable Changes to Jerusalem Municipal Boundaries

January 2
The Knesset approved last night amendment no. 2 to the Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel. However, the version of the amendment approved by the Knesset was significantly different from the one promoted in recent months. The approved version does not include the section that would have enabled the government to redraw the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem and remove from the city the East Jerusalem neighborhoods located beyond the Separation Barrier.
During yesterday’s session, Education Minister Naftali Bennet (Jewish Home) announced that his party opposes the part of the amendment intended to erase section 5 of the Basic Law. The deletion of section 5 was designed to allow the government to perform municipal changes in Jerusalem’s boundaries. Jewish Home members regard such changes as a step liable to result in the future annulment of Israeli sovereignty over the city and were, consequently, unwilling to vote for it.
This section had been introduced into the proposed amendment at the initiative of Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin. In recent months Elkin announced on a number of occasions his desire to remove from Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries the neighborhoods located on the other side of the Separation Barrier and to create for them a separate municipal authority that would remain under Israeli sovereignty.
To understand the possible implications of Elkin’s plan should it materialize, see Ir Amim’s paper, “Bills and Government Plans for Destructive Unilateral Measures to Redraw the Borders of Jerusalem.”
The amendment as approved last night adds to the Jerusalem Basic Law the requirement for a majority of 80 MKs in order to effect a change in the sovereignty in Jerusalem. This stipulation adds yet another obstacle to reaching an equitable political resolution on the city.
As the amendment was passed without deleting Article 5 of the Basic Law, the government cannot perform municipal changes in the city’s boundaries without an additional legislative process to arrange this. As noted, Minister Elkin is highly interested in implementing such changes. However, if Jewish Home members remain opposed to doing so, it will be difficult for Netanyahu’s coalition to promote such legislation.
Ir Amim will continue to advocate against unilateral measures in Jerusalem and will update on advancement of relevant legislation.