Sunday, July 2, 2017


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday (July 2nd) blocked controversial legislation that would have made it nearly impossible to divide Jerusalem.

The Prime Minister’s Office said Netanyahu, who made the move ahead of a planned Ministerial Committee for Legislation vote, wanted the coalition to reach consensus on what the bill would look like rather than use a version put forward by Education Minister Naftali Bennett’s Bayit Yehudi Party. To that effect, Bennett and Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin decided to work together on a new draft of the bill, to be brought to a ministerial vote next Sunday (July 9th). 

The Prime Minister’s Office pointed out that Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin has the right to be involved.

The bill in question would require the votes of 80 MKs to approve the concession of any part of Jerusalem. Currently, a simple majority, meaning 61 MKs, is necessary.

The coalition agreement states that Basic Laws – which are meant to form an eventual constitution, and amendments to them, such as this bill – may only be put forward with approval from all coalition parties. Coalition agreements are often flouted but tend to be cited as a reason for coalition members to block proposals of other parties.

Bennett said the bill sets a very high bar for dividing Jerusalem explaining, “twice in the last 15 years, we were a hair’s breadth away from giving away the Temple Mount, Mount of Olives, City of David and three-quarters of the Old City to the Palestinians in the time of [former prime ministers Ehud] Barak and [Ehud] Olmert.

“Netanyahu blocked the legislative process but we are determined to pass it in three readings and I’m sure we can unite around the bill and Jerusalem,” he added.

A Bayit Yehudi spokeswoman accused Netanyahu of being “all talk.”

“Jerusalem is united through actions, not speeches,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that narrow political issues came before preventing the division of Jerusalem.”

The Likud retorted by saying that Bayit Yehudi was trying to steal credit, and that a bill related to Jerusalem cannot be proposed without coordinating with Elkin.

“Bayit Yehudi knows well that Prime Minister Netanyahu supports the bill; he already supported it in 2007,” a party spokesman said. “Instead of reaching agreements through cooperation, Bayit Yehudi wants to deal in petty politics. The Likud is committed to Jerusalem always staying united under Israeli sovereignty, and we won’t be dragged into Bennett and [Justice Minister Ayelet] Shaked’s kindergarten; instead, we’ll support the bill together with our coalition partners.”

In a related development, coalition chairman David Bitan of the Likud blocked another right-wing bill that would require the government to follow through on promises to build homes to replace ones that it demolished.

The bill was proposed by Land of Israel Caucus chairman Yoav Kisch of Likud and Bezalel Smotrich of Bayit Yehudi in response to the lack of tenders for 300 homes in Beit El, which five years ago, Netanyahu pledged to market by September.

Kisch’s spokesman said Bitan removed the bill from the Ministerial Committee for Legislation’s agenda without consulting with him or giving any explanation.

LINK: WORLDISRAELNEWS: Netanyahu approves ‘trial run’ for Temple Mount visits by lawmakers

After almost a two-year ban on visits by Israeli lawmakers to the Temple Mount in an effort to quell violence, Netanyahu has approved a week-long trial run.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved a week-long “trial run” Sunday, allowing members of Knesset (MKs) to ascend the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. This reverses an October 2015 decision made during a wave of stabbing attacks against Israelis and was intended to prevent Arab riots in response to Jewish visits to the Mount.

Sunday’s decision followed a petition to the High Court of Justice by MK Yehuda Glick, a longtime activist fighting for Jewish prayer rights at the site, to have the decision reversed. On Sunday, Glick called the latest move “correct and praiseworthy,” but expressed sorrow that it took a court case to force Netanyahu’s hand.

“We will continue to wish that the Mount will fill its purpose, to become a world center for peace and reconciliation,” Glick stated.

Glick also called on MKs to avoid politicizing the Mount. “I call on all MKs to visit the Temple Mount, and to give honor to the site in a dignified way. (We must) leave our disagreements and our agenda,” he said in a statement.

Notably, Arab MKs had routinely ignored the ban on Israeli lawmakers.

“Our entry into the al-Aksa Mosque as Arab MKs and as Muslims was never, and will never be, dependent on a decision of the Israeli government or the Prime Minister of Israel,” said Knesset members representing the Islamic Movement in Israel in a statement. “Al-Aqsa Mosque is our holy space, as Muslims, and we are the only ones who have the right to visit the site and to pray there.”

“[The Temple Mount] is occupied Palestinian territory. The Israeli government must leave the area. We will continue to exercise our rights to enter and pray at al-Aqsa, without waiting for an OK from the prime minister of Israel,” they added.

Glick, executive director of Haliba, the initiative for Jewish freedom on the Temple Mount, and chairman of the Temple Mount Heritage Foundation, was shot in the chest almost three years ago after delivering a speech at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem, advocating equal rights for Jews on Judaism’s holiest site. He survived the assassination attempt, albeit after multiple surgeries and weeks of hospital care.

Several months later, in the wake of a traffic accident that killed eight Israeli Bedouin women traveling to the Mount, Glick called for a joint Jewish-Muslim prayer session on the site.

Netanyahu announced at the end of March that he would reconsider the ban after the Islamic holy month of Ramadan and four-day Eid al-Fitr holiday, which ended last week. The trial period will run July 23-28.

The Temple Mount is Judaism’s holiest site and third-holiest to Muslims.

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