Israeli lawmakers passed a bill on Tuesday that makes it harder for the government to hand over parts of Jerusalem to Palestinians, a move critics say undercuts the chances of a two-state solution and highlights the impact of President Trump’s support of Israel.
The bill, put forward by the far-right Jewish Home party, increases the number of votes needed in the Knesset to cede territory in Jerusalem to 80 votes from 61. The bill was passed with 64 voting in favor and 52 against.
“We are telling the world that it doesn’t matter what the nations of the world say,” Public Security Minister for Likud Gilad Erdan said Sunday. “The time has come to express our biblical right to the land.”
President Trump decided on Dec. 6 that the U.S. would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a move that sparked protests across the Arab world and that was deemed “null and void” by an overwhelming majority vote at the U.N. General Assembly.
After Trump's decision, Saeb Erekat, the secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization and chief negotiator, said Trump had “disqualified his country from any possible role in the peace process" and "destroyed any possibility of peace.”
The bill also removed a stipulation that previously barred changing Jerusalem’s borders, according to the Jerusalem Post, which skeptics say is intended to strategically remove Arab areas from the city.
“The new Jerusalem law is a racist law; it's a law meant to cleanse Jerusalem of its Arab residents,” Esawi Freige, a Knesset member for the left-wing Meretz party, told Haaretz. “After the Israeli government chose to erect a wall within Jerusalem, now it is seeking to remove 100,000 of its residents from the city.”
Control over Jerusalem — a city of historic and religious significance to Christians, Muslims, and Jews — remains one of the most contentious issues in the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict. White House adviser Jared Kushner lead a delegation to the Middle East in August, but Trump’s recent overhaul of American diplomatic tradition in the region appears to have slowed progress.