JERUSALEM (Jul. 24)
The Knesset’s overwhelming approval of the “Jerusalem Bill” last night was hailed by Premier Menachem Begin who interrupted his convalescence from a heart attack to appear in the Knesset and demonstratively vote for the controversial measure.
He told reporters afterwards that the 65-12 vote for the bill on its first reading was a fitting response to “the New York League of Nations” which “must learn that Jerusalem is David’s city and will remain so forever. “His scornful reference to the United Nations was intentional. According to Begin, the UN has degenerated “to the level of the League of Nations in Geneva between the wars. It is not a peace-making organization nor a peace-keeping organization. It encourages aggression.”
The Jerusalem Bill will be brought before the Knesset for its final two readings next week after which the parliament will adjourn for summer recess. MK David Glass of the National Religious Party, chairman of the Knesset’s Legal Committee which has to consider the bill before it goes back to the Knesset for its second and its third and final reading said in a radio interview today that he would initiate several amendments to the bill, including articles guaranteeing free access to the holy places and economic benefits for all inhabitants of the city.
MANY MKS ARE UNHAPPY
Glass said the Knesset should make every effort to complete the legislative process. He acknowledged that many Knesset members are unhappy with the entire initiative but said there was no point in delaying the bill. Although Begin stressed that the bill represented the consensus in Israel, many MKs and others who support its principles deplored its timing as unnecessarily provocative.
Only 77 of the Knesset’s 120 members were on hand for last night’s vote. A large number of Labor MKs absented themselves to avoid the dilemma of supporting a measure they considered untimely or which violated party discipline. But many Laborites voted in favor of the bill which had the official support of the Labor Party. Yossi Sarid was the only Labor MK who cast a negative vote.
The bill, introduced, introduced in May by Geula Cohen of the ultra-nationalist Tehiya faction, is intended to be incorporated into Israel’s basic law. It declares:”(I) Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. (2) The unity and integrity of greater Jerusalem in its post-Six-Day War borders, shall not be impaired. (3) The President of the State, the Knesset, the government and the Supreme Court shall have their seats in Jerusalem.”
(Meanwhile, the State Department today reiterated the U.S. position on Jerusalem in light of the Knesset’s approval of the measure. Chief spokesman John Trattner said, “Our position on Jerusalem in general has been stated often before and we have consistently opposed unilateral acts which would seek to change the status of Jerusalem outside of a negotiated settlement.”)