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Ministers back bill to keep Jerusalem under Israeli occupation

Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967 and later annexed it. [Getty]

Date of publication: 17 July, 2017

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Israeli ministers gave unanimous approval on Sunday to a bill aimed at making it more difficult for the government to give up land in Jerusalem in future peace talks.

Israeli ministers gave unanimous approval on Sunday to a bill aimed at making it more difficult for the government to give up land in Jerusalem as part of any future peace deal.

The bill, put forward by far-right Jewish Home Party member Shuli Moalem-Refaeli, stipulates that any concession of land in Jerusalem would require a two-thirds majority vote in parliament.

Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett made it clear that it opposes attempts for a more balanced Israeli-Palestinian peace deal which would see it give up some illegally occupied territory.

"The united Jerusalem bill we initiated just passed unanimously," he wrote on his Facebook page.

"We will prevent a situation like in 2000 when Ehud Barak wanted to hand over the Temple Mount and two-thirds of the Old City to Arafat" at the Camp David talks, Bennett said.

Following approval by the ministerial committee for legislation, the bill must still pass three readings and two committee meetings in Israel's parliament, making it unlikely to advance before later this year.

If passed, the two thirds threshold required to enact territorial concessions would make it virtually impossible for any government to give up control over any part of Jerusalem.

A political settlement which would see shared sovereignty of Jerusalem is seen as critical to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The latest legislation would shackle any future Israeli territorial compromises of the city.

East Jerusalem - which contains the Old City and key Muslim, Christian, and Jewish religious sites - is considered occupied Palestinian territory under international law.

It was officially annexed in 1981 by Israel's parliament in a move never recognised by the international community.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's government is considered the most right-wing in Israel's history, with key government ministers rejecting the two-state solution.

In May, UNESCO passed a resolution at the UN organisation's Paris headquarters which criticised actions taken by "Israel, the occupying power... to alter the character and status of the holy city of Jerusalem."

It particularly criticised Israel's annexation of Jerusalem following its occupation of the city's east in 1967.

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