Jerusalem Bill Goes to Knesset

The Knesset’s Constitution Committee decided today to send the controversial Jerusalem status bill to the full Knesset for its first reading. Only three members opposed the move. The measure, proclaiming united Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital, was proposed last month by Geula Cohen of the ultranationalist Tehiya faction, as a private member’s bill.

It drew an angry response from Cairo and was believed to have been responsible for President Anwar Sadat’s decision not to resume the autonomy talks with Israel which he initially suspended on May 8. Subsequently, reports from Cairo said Premier Menachem Begin had given oblique assurances to Sadat that the bill would be buried in committee. Those reports were vehemently denied in Israel.

Cohen expressed satisfaction today that her bill was moving out of committee. She said it was important for the Knesset to discuss Jerusalem at this time when it is under discussion by the United Nations Security Council. She claimed that any delay by the Knesset in acting on the measure would be seen abroad as an expression of doubt by Israel over the status of Jerusalem.

Israel annexed East Jerusalem in 1967 and has considered the united city its capital although most countries maintaining diplomatic relations with Israel do not recognize it as such. Cohen’s bill is intended to be a “basic law,” one which requires a two-thirds majority of the Knesset to rescind and which would become part of the national constitution Israel intends to adopt some day.

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