By a 5-4 majority, a ministerial committee on Sunday approved a bill that proposes to require 80 Knesset members to approve any negotiations about the future of Jerusalem before the issue can even be discussed in peace talks, as reported by Israeli press.
It sounds like a technicality: the bill is far from passing as law, as it still requires a Knesset vote. Although members of the prime minister’s Likud-Beitenu party and Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home party drove support in the committee, Netanyahu himself opposes the bill, reports Times of Israel. Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who has emerged as the main pragmatist in this government on all things related to the two-state solution, has submitted an appeal to the cabinet against the bill. Still, there are a few things this moment indicates.
First, the committee vote could actually provide concrete signs of which ministers are prepared to block or open the door to negotiations over Jerusalem, which could mean more than all their bluster. Recall that in the past Yair Lapid has indicated a maximalist position on Jerusalem. Livni’s active opposition to the bill indicates some commitment to a solution, not just a process. As for Netanyahu, his opposition may possibly imply a slow thaw in his mind over the status of Jerusalem as part of negotiations and a solution. In recent statements he has omitted his normal insistence on Jerusalem as the eternal, undivided capital, which was not lost on observers like Ben Birnbaum, whose excellent piece in the New Republic tracks this development and gives context to Israeli leaders who have, over the years, made the shift to accepting a compromise on Jerusalem when they get serious about a two-state peace process. The most recent one, Birnbaum points out, was Likud’s own Tzachi Hanegbi.
For two-state advocates, that’s the good news. Now the bad. The second observation is that this could herald the return of rotten legislation. During the previous Knesset session, a range of bills were proposed that threatened or outright violated democratic principles. The efforts bore strange and bitter fruit: the Nakba Law, the Boycott Law, the Acceptance Committee law, among others. Those that didn’t pass had their own dire impact on society by legitimizing the idea of legislating against minority groups, persecuting people for their political ideology...Read More