Israel's Economy Minister Naftali Bennett on Monday urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to bring a controversial bill that would require a Knesset supermajority to negotiate on Jerusalem before the cabinet for a vote.
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The bill, which Bennett described as "a very important piece of legislation," mandates that 80 out of 120 Members of Knesset give prior approval to negotiations with a foreign entity over the cessation of any portion of the capital. The bill was approved on Sunday by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation even though Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opposes the motion.
"Even 120 Knesset members cannot transfer [parts of Jerusalem] because it belongs to the Jewish people throughout the generations," Bennett told MKs from his Habayit Hayehudi party. "One doesn't negotiate over the Jewish people's capital."
Bennett said he expects Netanyahu to bring the bill before the cabinet "as soon as possible" to allow the ministers to decide whether it will be sent to the Knesset for a vote.
Likud officials said Netanyahu had expected the bill to be defeated and therefore did not act in advance to thwart its approval by the committee. Netanyahu may scuttle the bill's progress by using an appeal filed by Justice Minster Tzipi Livni, who heads the legislation committee, as well as Israel's peace negotiation team with the Palestinians.
The approval by committee normally signals the government's support for legislation. However, as long as the cabinet does not consider Livni's appeal, there are no limitations on the negotiations currently being conducted with the Palestinians.
"We are facing a flood [of legislation] - as if peace were in the offing and heaven forbid an agreement may not pass - when we know that in practice talks are crawling along very slowly," opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) on Sunday commented on the approval of the bill.
"There is something entirely unreasonable here - a suspension and freeze of any breakthrough in negotiations and hampering them in advance," she said, adding that her party would oppose such legislation.
The sets of bills included in the initiative would, for example, eliminate the appointment of the Supreme Court president solely on seniority, alter the makeup of the Judicial Appointments Committee, provide for legislation to circumvents the overturning of laws by the Supreme Court and a bill that gives priority to the state’s Jewish identity over its democratic identity.
"The entire purpose [of the legislation]… is to instill fear and terror into the Supreme Court and subjugate it to the political system," Yacimovich said.
The decision to join forces between Habayit Hayehudi and the Likid came about, in part, as "revenge" against Livni in wake of her plan to reform how religious services are provided, sources in both parties revealed.
A source from Habayit Hayehudi, a predominantly religious party, told Haaretz: "Livni stole away bills on the subject from right under our noses. Her decision to get involved in areas that we deal with irritated a lot of people here."
Bennett, the chairman of Habayit Hayehudi, also heads the Religious Services Ministry.