Nearly two decades after the first Netanyahu government abandoned plans to extend the municipal borders of Jerusalem to include Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria, a similar proposal is heading to a critical vote which could ensure its passage during the Knesset’s winter session.
Dubbed the “Greater Jerusalem” law, the bill would annex several towns – including some of the largest Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria – to the city of Jerusalem, strengthening the capital’s Jewish majority and potentially paving the way for the extension of Israeli sovereignty over parts of Judea and Samaria.
Proposed by Transportation and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud), the Greater Jerusalem bill is set to be voted on Sunday by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, a panel of coalition party leaders which determines which bills gain coalition support. Adoption by the committee obliges all coalition members to support the bill, essentially guaranteeing its passage by the Knesset.
"This coming Sunday I shall take part in Jewish history," Katz wrote on Facebook Wednesday.
"The 'Greater Jerusalem bill', which I initiated, will come up for a vote in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation," he wrote.
If passed, the law would expand the municipal borders of Jerusalem to include the city of Maale Adumim to the east, which is currently home to nearly 38,000 Israelis. In addition, the town of Givat Zeev to the northwest, the city of Beitar Illit to the south, the town of Efrat, and other communities in Gush Etzion would all be incorporated into Jerusalem.
According to Katz, the plan would add some 150,000 Jews to the city, increasing the total population to over one million.
At present, Jerusalem is home to nearly 900,000 people, including 540,000 Jews and 330,000 Arabs. Expanding the city’s limits would increase the Jewish population to 670,000, shifting the demographic balance from 61.1% Jewish and 37.3% Arab to 67% Jewish and 32% Arab.
While the towns in question will be incorporated into the city of Jerusalem, they will nevertheless retain some degree of “municipal autonomy” according to the text of the bill, which defines them as “sub-municipalities” of the capital. The arrangement proposed is similar in some respects to the consolidated city-county unified jurisdiction found in some American metropolitan areas like Louisville, Kentucky, and Nashville Tennessee.
"The settlements joined to Jerusalem will maintain certain municipal autonomy, since they will be considered sub-municipalities of Jerusalem," the bill says.