Israeli Minister: Our Capital Cannot Be Divided

Tuesday, October 22, 2013 |  Ryan Jones

Israel's cabinet has thrown its weight behind a bill requiring a large Knesset majority to approve a new division of Jerusalem, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is opposed to the motion, arguing that it will hinder peace efforts.

The bill would require the approval of at least 80 Knesset members (two-thirds of the 120-member parliamentary body) to even start negotiations leading to the division or relinquishing of even a small part of Jerusalem to the Palestinians.

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation backed the bill in a vote of 5-4 on Sunday.

Economy Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) said the vote was yet another reminder that "we won't divide Jerusalem or negotiate the eternal capital of the Jewish people."

Bennett said he expects Netanyahu to bring the bill before the Knesset for an official vote in the very near future.

But Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, whom Netanyahu appointed to oversee negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, is doing her best to squash the bill before it ever reaches the Knesset floor.

"Members of the coalition are ruining the ability of Israel to make diplomatic decisions," complained Livni.

Insisting that her demand to be able to negotiate away parts of the holy city stem from a position of caring, Livni continued, "Do they want the government to defend our interests, including Jerusalem, or do they want to lead us all to chaos? No one can teach us about Jerusalem and no one loves Jerusalem more than us."

Netanyahu is expected to support Livni's appeal aimed at freezing the bill.

Opposition MK Yaakov Litzman of the religious United Torah Judaism party sponsored the bill. In remarks to Yediot Ahronot, he called it a means to hold Netanyahu to his campaign promise never to divide the city.

"Netanyahu promised more than once not to negotiate on Jerusalem," Litzman said. "The message of the bill is clear: Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and is outside of any negotiations."

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