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    Israel law tightens hold on occupied Jerusalem sectors

     Israel’s Parliament Tuesday gave final approval to legislation aimed at making it more difficult for the government to hand the Palestinians parts of Jerusalem under any future peace deal. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ office said U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent declaration of occupied Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the new Israeli law amounted to a “declaration of war.”
    Formulated by Shuli Moalem-Refaeli of the far-right Jewish Home party, the new law, approved by a 64 to 51 vote, comes weeks after Trump’s decision on Jerusalem sparked deadly protests in Palestine.
    It also follows a vote earlier this week by the central committee of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party in favor of extending Israeli sovereignty over settlements in the West Bank.
    The Likud vote was nonbinding, but was a further expression of the hopes of many right-wing Israelis who oppose the creation of a Palestinian state.
    The law approved Tuesday determines that any ceding of lands considered by Israel to be part of Jerusalem would need a two-thirds majority vote in Parliament – 80 out of 120 members of the Knesset.
    It also enables changing the municipal definition of Jerusalem, which means that sectors of the city “could be declared separate entities,” a statement from Parliament read.
    Israeli right-wing politicians have spoken of unilaterally breaking off overwhelmingly Palestinian areas of the city in a bid to increase its Jewish majority.
    However, the new law is not necessarily definitive.
    It can be changed by a regular parliamentary majority of 61.
    Israel captured East Jerusalem and the West Bank in 1967. It later occupied East Jerusalem, seen by the Palestinians as the capital of their future state, in a move never recognized by the international community.
    “The Mount of Olives, the Old City … will forever remain ours,” Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who heads Jewish Home, said after the vote. Abbas’ office said Trump’s recognition and the Israeli law amounted to a “declaration of war on the Palestinian people and its political and religious identity.”
    The statement called the moves a “dangerous project for the future of the region and the world.”
    Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said the Israelis were moving ahead with such measures because the United States had stayed silent and signaled approval with Trump’s Jerusalem declaration.
    The Hamas movement said Abbas should declare the end of the Oslo peace accords of the ’90s and withdraw the PLO’s recognition of Israel.
    Trump’s Dec. 6 decision upended decades of precedent and broke with international consensus, but maintains that Jerusalem’s final status would have to be decided in negotiations between the two sides.
    It has led to deep anger among Palestinians, with Abbas saying the United States can no longer play any role in the Middle East peace process.
    Abbas Monday said the White House “has refused to condemn Israeli colonial settlements as well as the systematic attacks and crimes of the Israeli occupation against the people of Palestine.”
    Speaking of the Likud vote, he said “we hope that this vote serves as a reminder for the international community that the Israeli government, with the full support of the U.S. administration, is not interested in a just and lasting peace.”
    In other developments, Israeli aircraft attacked Hamas bases in Gaza early Tuesday in response to a rocket from the Palestinian enclave targeting southern Israel hours before, officials said.
    Palestinian security sources said the strikes were in Khan Younes in the south and Deir al-Balah in central Gaza, causing damage but no casualties.
    Monday night, a rocket hit a town in southern Israel, causing no damage or casualties.
    Palestinian militants in Gaza have fired 18 rockets and mortar rounds at Israel in violence that erupted after Trump’s controversial decision, six of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system.
    The projectiles are often fired by fringe radical Islamist groups, but Israel holds Hamas responsible for any attacks from the territory and retaliates by targeting Hamas positions.
    Military chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot said Israel was not interested in any further escalation, while Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said a war in Gaza would be against Israel’s interests.
    “The Israeli interest is that international attention goes to Iran, not to start a campaign in Gaza and divert the attention there,” he told military radio, referring to protests in the country that is Israel’s main enemy.

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