A parliamentary vote is set to commence on October 29 on a controversial Jerusalem bill that would annex 19 West Bank settlements to the city of Jerusalem and downgrade the status of three Arab neighborhoods of the city that are beyond the security barrier, namely Kafr Akab, Shuafat and Anata, The Jerusalem Post reports.
A March version of the bill stated that the settlements “would be annexed to Israel and would be part of Jerusalem.” The latest version, drafted in October, states only that these settlements “would be part of Jerusalem. In this way a population will be added to Jerusalem that would enable a demographic balance and provide land for additional housing, commerce and tourism.” If the ministers vote in favor, the bill would then need the approval of the Israeli Parliament in order to become law
The plan, if implemented, would significantly change the city’s official demographic balance, making it a more Jewish city.
Residents of the 19 settlements would have voting rights in Jerusalem, but would maintain their own local governments, which would be considered sub-municipalities. The bill includes the settlements of Ma’aleh Adumim, Givat Ze’ev, Betar Illit, Efrat and the communities that fall under the auspices of the Gush Etzion Regional Council.
Separately, the bill also takes the Kafr Akab, Shuafat and Anata neighborhoods of Jerusalem and makes them sub-municipalities of the city. The three neighborhoods constitute around 100,000 people.
Minister of Transportation and Minister of Intelligence Yisrael Katz, who is one of the chief proponents of the idea, said that the intent of the legislation is to “ensure a Jewish majority in the united city and to expand its borders by adding 150,000 residents to the area of a greater Jerusalem.”
Opponents of the bill have charged that the legislation is equivalent to annexation.
“If passed, this bill will constitute a de facto annexation and a clear step towards a de jure annexation. We cannot let this bill become law!” the Peace Now NGO said.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has already stated that he would support the legislation, previously approved building plans for 3,736 new units in Jewish settlements in the Israeli occupied West Bank on October 9.