The Ministerial Committee on Legislative Affairs has approved a bill on Sunday, defining Jerusalem as a national priority area of the first order in the housing, employment and education sectors. The bill, initiated by Knesset Member Uri Ariel (National Union), is expected to be brought before the Knesset for a preliminary vote.
The bill means that construction priority will be given to Jerusalem's many neighborhoods - including in east Jerusalem, a measure which could lead to friction between Israel and the US and Europe. While the exact repercussions of the bill on the capital's residents are unclear, they will enjoy various benefits through the bill.
The bill received the support of Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon, Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan, Minister of Information and DiasporaYuli Edelstein, Minister Meshulam Nahari, Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov, Minister of Religious Services Yakov Margi, Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch and Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver. The bill is part of the government's policy.
Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon and Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog from Labor, together with their Likud colleagues, Minister Benny Begin and Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar – all supporters of the bill, requested, on behalf of the justice and finance ministries, to postpone the vote by three weeks so that additional elements (mainly in welfare) could be included in the bill, but their request was denied.
The bill's commentary addressed the fact that in section four of the Basic Law on Jerusalem as Israel's capital, it is stated that the government will persevere in developing and promoting the prosperity of Jerusalem and its residents by allocating special resources and giving a special priority to State authority development operations within the city. According to Knesset members, the purpose of the bill is to follow through on the goals detailed within the Basic Law.
MK Ariel: Jerusalem in the major league
Giving a city the status of national priority area of the first order means that the city can offer benefits and grants in education, culture, employment, welfare, construction, industry, agriculture, tourism, interior, environmental protection, immigration absorption and infrastructure.
It was also decided that in order to prevent young residents from leaving the city, some apartments will qualify as affordable housing for various sectors and some youngsters will be exempted from paying property tax.
Over 45 Knesset members from various parties stand behind the bill. Among those participating in the legislature initiative are Coalition Chairman MK Zeev Elkin (Likud), MK Nachman Shai (Kadima), MK Uri Maklev (United Torah Judaism), MK Avraham Michaeli (Shas) and MK Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beiteinu).
The new bill will give Jerusalem the same financial and national priority given to periphery cities. The legislators' intent is, among other things, to prioritize public area construction in Jerusalem. And even though the bill amendments don't mention construction beyond the Green Line, it is expected that construction priority will also be given to Jewish neighborhoods east of the Green Line.
In addition, they will receive government prioritization in the education and employment sectors, which will lead, say the bill's creators, to a change in the area's demographic makeup – an increase in the number of Jews in the area.
Minister Kahlon said that by passing the legislation the Israeli government is sending a "clear, unequivocal political message that Jerusalem will not be divided."
"All those within the Palestinian or international community who expect the current Israeli government to accept any demands regarding Israel's sovereignty over its capital are mistaken and misleading," he said.
MK Uri Ariel (National Union) noted that he expects the prioritization to "push Jerusalem into the major league.
"It (the bill) will lead to a change in the demographic balance. I hope that if the bill will eventually receive government support in the Knesset, it will be a driving force for Israel's capital," added the MK.
Aviad Glickman contributed to the report
- Follow Ynetnews on Facebook