By Shahar Ilan, Haaretz Correspondent
The Knesset plenum passed in a preliminary vote Wednesday a bill that would make it far more difficult to divide Jerusalem in the context of a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
54 MKs voted in favor of the bill, with 24 against. The Knesset holds preliminary votes on private bills, presented by individual MKs. Before being enacted into law, however, the bill must still be approved in committee and then pass three more plenum votes.
The bill, which was authored by Likud faction whip Gideon Sa’ar and 25 other rightist and religious MKs, would require the support of 80 MKs for any changes to the Basic Law: Jerusalem.
An absolute majority of 61 MKs is currently needed to change the basic law, and raising the bar to 80 MKs would make it nearly impossible to gain Knesset approval for concessions on Jerusalem.
The timing of the bill is also significant, and is designed to warn the government that it cannot make concessions on the capital a few weeks before the U.S.-sponsored Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland.
The coalition apparently does not intend to try to scuttle the bill at this time, due to the fact that it has strong support in the right wing.
The government’s liaison to the Knesset, MK Ruhama Avraham, also appears to be against trying to prevent the bill from passing, despite the fact that it was not discussed in the Ministerial Committee on Legislation. Avraham’s position is a result of the fact that she opposes discussing Jerusalem at such an early stage in the negotiations.