Israel to postpone controversial 'annexation' bill

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu makes his way by helicopter to the Etzion Bloc in the West Bank

A bill before the Israeli parliament which would have secured a Jewish majority in Jerusalem has been delayed, following pressure from the USA and concerns it would allow Israel to annex large parts of the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu postponed a vote on the bill by a ministerial committee that was scheduled to take place on Sunday, with an Israeli official saying "diplomatic preparation" was needed.

David Bitan, the Likud party's parliamentary whip and a close Netanyahu ally, told Army Radio the vote set for Sunday is delayed because "there is American pressure claiming this is annexation".

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The "Greater Jerusalem" legislation would put some settlements in the occupied West Bank - built on land Palestinians seek for a future state and viewed as illegal by most countries - under the jurisdiction of Jerusalem's municipality. "As we have been coordinating with them until now, it is worth [continuing] talking and coordinating with them". According to Haaretz newspaper, Netanyahu told cabinet members on Sunday that the bill must be discussed with U.S. officials before it can move forward.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull checked into the King David Hotel in Jerusalem at 2 p.m. on Monday, just less than two days later than he originally intended, and nearly immediately entered into discussions with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He disputed that the bill amounted to "annexation".

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The Greater Jerusalem Bill would increase the city's Jewish population by about 100,000, by including four large Jewish settlements - Ma'ale Adumim, Beitar Illit, Efrat and Givat Zeev, as well as the Gush Etzion bloc.

Most countries also consider the West Bank settlements illegal under worldwide law, as well as the formal annexation of land seized during war. For the vast majority of the global community, the status of Israel's settlements, built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state, is to be decided in peace negotiations.

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