Why Keeping Jerusalem United Required a New Law

On Tuesday, the Knesset passed a bill emending the Basic Law—Israel’s de-facto constitution—so that a two-thirds majority will be needed to approve any measure that would cede any part of Jerusalem to another state or entity. Nadav Shragai explains the bill’s logic:

This is a practical law, not a theoretical one. The Knesset has now placed a serious obstacle in the path of any government that tries to hand over such Jerusalem neighborhoods [as] Issawiya, Jabel Mukhabar, or Tzur Baher to the Palestinians. These neighborhoods and others like them lie flush against Jewish neighborhoods such as French Hill or Mount Scopus in the north, or Armon Hanatziv or Kibbutz Ramat Rachel in the southeast. On Tuesday, the Knesset reduced the likelihood that the Palestinians will ever resume shooting attacks from the seam, [that is, the area between the borders of Jerusalem and the barrier that cordons off much of the West Bank], like the ones in [the Jerusalem neighborhood of] Gilo that occurred after the adjacent town of Beit Jala was handed over to the Palestinians.

The new legislation is also vital to prevent any possibility that, after any division of the city, the Palestinians would interfere with freedom of access to, and worship at, the Jewish holy sites in the city. They have done so in the distant and recent past with the Western Wall, the Temple Mount, the Mount of Olives, and Rachel’s Tomb.

The law will also preserve the joint day-to-day life shared by Jews and Arabs in the capital. This is something else that exists in Jerusalem, along with the ethno-religious conflict, and to a much greater degree than most of the public is aware of. Dividing the city would definitely hurt that co-existence.

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More about: Israel & Zionism, Israel's Basic Law, Jerusalem, Knesset


Israel’s Nation-State Law and the Hysteria of the Western Media

Aug. 17 2018

Nearly a month after it was passed by the Knesset, the new Basic Law defining Israel as “the nation-state of the Jewish people” is still causing outrage in the American and European press. The attacks, however, are almost uniformly incommensurate with this largely symbolic law, whose text, in the English translation found on the Knesset website, is barely over 400 words in length. Matthew Continetti comments:

Major journalistic institutions have become so wedded to a pro-Palestinian, anti-Benjamin Netanyahu narrative, in which Israel is part of a global trend toward nationalist authoritarian populism, that they have abdicated any responsibility for presenting the news in a dispassionate and balanced manner. The shameful result of this inflammatory coverage is the normalization of anti-Israel rhetoric and policies and widening divisions between Israel and the diaspora.

For example, a July 18, 2018, article in the Los Angeles Times described the nation-state law as “granting an advantageous status to Jewish-only communities.” But that is false: the bill contained no such language. (An earlier version might have been interpreted in this way, but the provision was removed.) Yet, as I write, the Los Angeles Times has not corrected the piece that contained the error. . . .

Such through-the-looking-glass analysis riddled [the five] news articles and four op-eds the New York Times has published on the matter at the time of this writing. In these pieces, “democracy” is defined as results favored by the New York Times editorial board, and Israel’s national self-understanding as in irrevocable conflict with its democratic form of government. . . .

The truth is that democracy is thriving in Israel. . . .  The New York Times quoted Avi Shilon, a historian at Ben-Gurion University, who said [that] “Mr. Netanyahu and his colleagues are acting like we are still in the battle of 1948, or in a previous era.” Judging by the fallacious, paranoid, fevered, and at times bigoted reaction to the nation-state bill, however, Bibi may have good reason to believe that Israel is still in the battle of 1948, and still defending itself against assaults on the very idea of a Jewish state.

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More about: Israel & Zionism, Israel's Basic Law, Israeli democracy, Media, New York Times