Update: National Park Bill that Benefits Settlers Passed into Law

The amendment to the National Parks bill designed to enable construction of residential homes in national parks passed the Knesset Plenum on second and third readings yesterday with a majority of 61/43.  Since the Palestinians of East Jerusalem very rarely receive construction permits, not to mention the virtual absence of building plans for Palestinians, it is clear that the direct beneficiaries of the law are the settlers of the City of David, Silwan. Silwan/City of David is the only residential neighborhood located within a national park. The purpose of the bill is to enable the Elad Foundation to expand the number of residential homes in the settlement.

Over the weekend and yesterday (19th November), the Elad Foundation and right-wing Knesset Members lobbied hard to secure a majority for the law, first at the Knesset committees and yesterday in the plenum. Opposition to the law was led by MK Yael Cohen Faran from the Zionist Union and Dov Khenin from the Joint List. The basis for the opposition to the bill were: A. Its adverse environmental implications, i.e. that it could damage antiquities and the national park landscape, and B. That its implementation would primarily benefit Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem.

Of the Opposition, those who voted against the bill included most of the MKs from the Joint List, all of Meretz’s MKs, most of the MKs of the Zionist Union and one MK from Yesh Atid. Yesterday saw heightened efforts by the Opposition parties to prevent the passing of laws in general, and specifically the National Parks bill. The bill passed due to support by Yisrael Beitenu and the coalition parties. The campaign against the bill demonstrated how on the one hand, issues which include environmental concerns in addition to the human rights aspect are likely to yield greater support from members of Knesset, and on the other hand, it showed that even amongst the Opposition there is considerable support for the settlers.