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JfJfP comments


2016:

06 May: Tair Kaminer starts her fifth spell in gaol. Send messages of support via Reuven Kaminer

04 May: Against the resort to denigration of Israel’s critics

2015:

23 Dec: JfJfP policy statement on BDS

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11 Nov: UK ban on visiting Palestinian mental health workers

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15 Dec: Chanukah: Celebrating the miracle of holy oil not military power

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29 November: JfJfP, with many others, signs a "UK must protest at Bedouin expulsion" letter

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18 Jan: In Support of Bab al-Shams

17 Jan: Letter to Camden New Journal about Veolia

11 Jan: JfJfP supports public letter to President Obama

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Posts

Right wing moves to ban any talk of Jerusalem in peace talks


The souk in the densely populated ‘Arab quarter’ of Jerusalem. No Arab or Muslim presence in Jerusalem would even be acknowledged in the peace negotiations if the bill forbidding mention of the word ‘Jerusalem’ were passed.

Israel’s chief peace negotiator to block effort to bar talks about Jerusalem

Right-wing committee proposes bill to exclude Jerusalem from peace talks unless 66% of Knesset agrees
October 20, 2013

Israel’s chief peace negotiator Tzipi Livni will seek to block a proposal introduced by members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet to make it tougher to negotiate with the Palestinians over Jerusalem, one of her aides said on Sunday.

The bill in question is aimed to stop any attempt to concede Israeli control over the city during the peace talks with the Palestinians. A right-winged government panel approved Sunday the “Safeguarding Jerusalem Bill”, which mandates that 80 Members of Knesset (66 percent) must approve negotiations with a foreign entity before the government may negotiate dividing the capital or handing over any part of it.

Jerusalem “shall not be divided, or parts of it handed over to anybody,” states the explanatory section of the bill. “The sanctity of Jerusalem shall not be given to outsiders,” it says. “This bill averts the possibility that at any stage of a political [peace] process of any sort, there will be not even a single discussion about the status of the city of Jerusalem.”

Livni, who is also Israel’s justice minister, would ask the full cabinet to freeze the bill in order to avoid any delay to US-backed negotiations, renewed in July after a three-year impasse. Despite his own personal ideology, Netanyahu is also expected to come out in favor of Livni’s appeal due to the implications it could have on the negotiations..

If the bill becomes a law, it is expected to have a negative effect on peace talks with the Palestinians, since the status of Jerusalem is one of the most contentious issues keeping Israelis and Palestinians from reaching a deal, and the law in question would mean negotiators could not even begin to discuss it until the Knesset makes its own decision on the matter.

Under the bill, if Israel reaches a deal on dividing Jerusalem without first getting the approval of two-thirds of the Knesset, the agreement will not be binding.

Livni, who represents Israel at peace talks held under US Secretary of State John Kerry’s tutelage, has a week to file an appeal which would delay transfer of the measure to parliament where it would face another four votes before becoming law.

Israelis and Palestinians are also divided over the future of Jewish settlements, where borders should run, and Palestinian demands for a “right of return” for refugees and their descendants.



The Al Aqsa mosque, Jerusalem. There are frequent provocative incursions by settlers and archaelogical digs are continuing near the site despite requests from UNESCO that they cease.

Should we worry about bill requiring Knesset supermajority to negotiate on Jerusalem?

Bill forbidding negotiation on Jerusalem’s future without a Knesset majority of at least 66% contravenes several Basic Laws and Israel’s democratic tradition.

By Aeyal Gross, Ha’aretz
October 21, 2013

Jerusalem, Dome of the Rock, REUTERS 1 SEPT, 2010
The Dome of the Rock is seen on the compound known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif, and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem’s Old City September 17, 2010. Photo by Reuters

Should the bill that the Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved on Sunday become law, it would have one of the longest and most unwieldy titles of any law in this country: The law forbidding the negotiation on the future of Jerusalem except by a majority of at least 80 members of Knesset. On the other hand, with a mere two clauses, its content will be among the shortest: The first stipulates that the government or anyone acting on its behalf cannot conduct negotiations with a view to partition Jerusalem or hand over any part of it without a majority of at least 80 Knesset members. The second stipulates that if the government overlooks this prohibition, neither the negotiations nor any decision or agreement emanating from them will be binding.

Of course, the bill has a political dimension, and not an innocuous one. Its purpose is to thwart the peace talks. The introductory notes show that the bill’s intention is to even prevent “a debate” on the status of Jerusalem. What is more, today the Basic Law on Jerusalem, the Capital of Israel requires a 61-MK majority to cede portions of the city to a foreign entity – but there is no restriction on raising the issue in peace negotiation.

Other than that, this bill also has several legal flaws. Since the issue of Jerusalem is one of the core issues that will be addressed, in one way or another, in a final-status agreement with the Palestinians, the bill contradicts previous commitments Israel made. The Oslo Accords, for one, stipulate that Jerusalem will feature – alongside other issues like the Palestinian refugees, the settlements, security arrangements and borders – in the final-status stage of the talks.

At the legislative level, the bill is problematic in two ways. First, accepting a law that requires approval from 80 Knesset members with a regular majority — as the bill isn’t likely to receive sweeping support in the house — is problematic. How can the approval of 80 MKs be required in a law that passed with much fewer votes? Can a regular majority saddle the Knesset in such a way? The Supreme Court has not given its opinion on the issue yet, but common sense says that an ordinary law – as opposed to a Basic Law, which enjoys constitutional status in Israel – passed by an ordinary majority cannot include such a demand.

In addition, the Knesset would be abusing its office if its current majority presumed to prevent a future majority and a future government from exercising their own judgment on this question. The attempt to preempt a decision by a future majority according to its own conscience also makes the bill anti-democratic. In the absence of a full constitution in Israel, there seems to be no hard and fast rule, but the obvious legal answer would be to say that an 80-MK majority is unconstitutional, and in any event cannot be bound by legislation that is not a Basic Law. Incidentally, it seems that anyway, should the law pass, the Knesset would be able to repeal it with an ordinary majority at any time, thus bypassing its demand for a majority of 80 MKs.

Second, the law violates the Basic Law on the Government, which stipulates that the government is the executive branch of the state. In dozens of legal rulings, the High Court of Justice ruled that Israel’s foreign relations are the prerogative of the government, as the country’s executive branch. And even more straightforwardly, an ordinary law cannot contradict a Basic Law. The High Court of Justice is currently considering questions reminiscent of this issue in a petition that sought to annul an amendment to another law. Passed in 2010, it stipulates that any concession of territory in which Israeli law was applied (including the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem, but not the rest of the West Bank) be approved by referendum. In November 2012, the High Court of Justice issued a show-cause order on the question of whether a referendum could only be ordered in a Basic Law, but has not yet given its ruling on the petition.

It is interesting to note that in a different context, the High Court of Justice has been told recently that prison privatization contravenes the role of the government as the executive branch, as defined in the Basic Law. But the High Court of Justice did not address this claim, since it ruled that in any case this privatization violated the human rights set down in the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty, and must therefore be cancelled. A similar claim may be made concerning the case before us even though the bill does not involve privatization, but rather a violation of the separation of powers.



MK Yaakov Litznan, United Torah Judaism faction, sponsor of the bill in order “to preserve a united an eternal Jerusalem until the redeemer arrives, may he arrive quickly.”

Ministers back bill requiring 66% Knesset majority to negotiate Jerusalem status

Only with approval of 80 MKs could cabinet negotiate city’s future, if bill approved; Lapid declines to join Livni in effort to torpedo the bill.

By Jonathan Lis, Ha’aretz
October 20, 2013

The cabinet won’t be able to even negotiate the status of Jerusalem without the approval of a two-thirds majority in Knesset favoring talks, according to a bill the Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved on Sunday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opposes the motion.

The cabinet can still torpedo the bill if it backs the appeal that Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who heads the Ministerial Committee for Legislation as well as the Israeli peace negotiation team, has said she will file.

Yair Lapid, leader of the Yesh Atid party – who has said he does not want Jerusalem to be divided – also opposed the bill. But he refused Livni’s request to join her in appealing it.

There are currently no constraints on the topics that may be discussed in negotiations.

Netanyahu is expected to come out in favor of Livni’s appeal, in an effort to keep the bill from being passed. Likud sources said Netanyahu hadn’t attempted to make sure the ministerial committee toed the line because he mistakenly thought it wouldn’t get this far in the first place.

The Safeguarding Jerusalem Bill mandates that 80 MKs approve negotiations with a foreign entity before the government may negotiate dividing the capital or handing over any part of it. It is expected to have a chilling effect on peace talks with the Palestinians, since the status of Jerusalem is one of the most contentious issues keeping Israelis and Palestinians from reaching a deal and the law would mean negotiators could not even begin to discuss it until the Knesset makes its own decision on the matter.

Jerusalem “shall not be divided, or parts of it handed over to anybody,” states the explanatory section of the bill. “The sanctity of Jerusalem shall not be given to outsiders,” it says. “This bill averts the possibility that at any stage of a political [peace] process of any sort, there will be not even a single discussion about the status of the city of Jerusalem.”

MK Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism), who sponsored the bill, said he sought more than a simple majority of 61 MKs, in an effort to make it more difficult for proponents of dividing Jerusalem to win Knesset approval.

“Since there have been instances in which talks have begun on handing over various parts of the city, we have to pass a law that won’t offer even the possibility of raising such an option at the start of negotiations,” said Litzman. “Due to the concern that under some circumstances it will be possible to secure a majority to grant [the government] the ability to actualize the concern that they will discuss the division of Jerusalem, this bill comes along to require a majority of 80 Knesset members, which cannot be secured effortlessly, to preserve a united an eternal Jerusalem until the redeemer arrives, may he arrive quickly.”

Under the bill, if Israel reaches a deal on dividing Jerusalem without first getting the approval of two-thirds of the Knesset, the agreement will not be binding. The Knesset, cabinet and Jerusalem municipality are explicitly exempted from having to implement any agreement on Jerusalem reached without prior legislative approval.

The bill won the support of five ministers from Likud, Habayit Hayehudi and Yisrael Beiteinu. The four ministers on the committee from the Hatnuah and Yesh Atid parties opposed it.

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