Israel’s cabinet will vote on a new controversial bill to annex 19 illegal settlements in East Jerusalem on Sunday, forming part of Israel’s effort to expand its control over Jerusalem. According to the bill, the settlements of Ma’ale Adumim, Gush Etzion, Efrat, Beitar Illit and Givat Ze’ev will be included under Jerusalem’s municipal jurisdiction, but not officially annexed to Israel. This means that over 150,000 Jewish settlers from these settlements will be allowed to vote in municipal elections, while retaining their autonomy.
The so-called Greater Jerusalem Bill was drafted by MK Yoav Kish and Transport Minister Yisrael Katz, who have in the past said the move would “weaken the Arab hold on the capital”. It will downgrade the status of 3 Arab neighbors beyond the wall – Kafr Akab, Shuafat and Anata – to ‘sub municipalities’.
If approved, the settlements would be brought under Israeli municipal jurisdiction, instead of being formally annexed to Israel. This would not allow for full Israeli control.
According to Haaretz, Israeli PM, Netanyahu, allowed the bill to proceed, after previous delays, to win support from his right-wing support base ahead of a potential general election in early 2018. The ministerial committee is expected to approve it. It will then be sent for approval on the Knesset floor.
If this plan is executed it would significantly change the demographic balance of Jerusalem, making it more Israeli. Kish said that this would preserve Jerusalem’s status as what he called the “eternal capital of the people of Israel and the Jewish majority.”
The move is expected to spark strong opposition from the Palestinian Authority, constituting part of Israel’s increasing expansion of illegal settlements. The announcement came on the same day as approval of plans to build 176 new settlement units in Jabal Mukaber.