The Knesset has turned back an attempt by the Likud opposition to push through a bill that would make any future change in the status of Jerusalem virtually impossible.
The Likud – which has latched onto the Jerusalem issue as a central point of its campaign in Israel’s upcoming national elections – has launched a barrage of charges that Prime Minister Shimon Peres would agree in negotiations with the Palestinians to divide the city if elected to the premiership this spring.
On Wednesday, in a 55-52 vote, with two abstentions, the Knesset rejected a bill that would make any change to the city’s status conditional on the support of two-thirds of the 120-member Knesset.
Prior to the vote, Justice Minister David Liba’i said the proposal endangered the legislative process by giving a minority of 41 Knesset members the veto power over any future legislation affecting the status of Jerusalem.
Under current law, the issue would be decided by a simple majority of Knesset members.
In the current Knesset, the government has been able to muster only a razor- thin majority for its peace process initiatives.
The two-thirds majority Likud envisioned would have made it all but impossible for any Israeli government to make any change in the capital city’s status.
Peres, who has repeatedly denied any plans to alter the status of Jerusalem in future negotiations with the Palestinians, called Wednesday for continued development and investment in the city.