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Israeli ministers set to vote on settlement 'annexation' bill

A general view taken on July 6, 2017 shows the Jewish settlement of Kokhav Yaakov, north of Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank
ABBAS MOMANI (AFP/File)
Contentious draft bill would include several West Bank settlement blocs within the municipal boundaries

A contentious draft bill that would include several West Bank settlement blocs within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem will be voted on by ministers on Sunday, where it is expected to easily pass and be handed to the Knesset for a full vote.

Transportation minister Yisrael Katz -- who has put the bill forward alongside government lawmaker Yoav Kisch -- confirmed in a statement that the vote in the Knesset's Ministerial Committee for Legislation will take place next week.

The law would incorporate the settlement blocs of Gush Etzion, Ma'ale Adumim, Beitar Illit, Efrat and Givat Ze'ev into a municipal entity called 'Greater Jerusalem'.

Settlements are largely viewed as illegal by the international community, although various draft peace plans over the years have presumed that settlement blocs abutting Jerusalem would be incorporated into Israel under a territory swap arrangement.

However, this would still complicate the Palestinians' ambition of establishing a capital for their desired future state in the largely Arab east of the city.

The mooted legislation has been described by critics as "creeping annexation" but co-sponsor Yoav Kisch told i24NEWS earlier this month that he terms "applying sovereignty" rather than annexation.

"I am in favor of, let's say your word, annexation, or my word, sovereignty, but I cannot apply the political power today in the Knesset to do so but my first step in that which I will have power in the Knesset, is to in the municipality way create a [metropolitan area] of Jerusalem," Kisch said.

Earlier Wednesday the Israeli government announced that it will invest some NIS 800 million ($230,000,000) in the West Bank. The money will go towards improving transportation and infrastructure and security for local residents.

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