Emboldened by Washington's announcement that it would move its embassy to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv is quickly moving to secure control over the city as hard-line conservative politicians pushed through a law that will likely destroy any chance of reviving the peace process.
The Israeli parliament or Knesset passed an amendment Tuesday drafted by hardline Zionists that would bind future governments from ceding control over the city of Jerusalem in any future peace talks, despite Palestinian desires that the eastern half of the city, which has been illegally occupied and annexed by Israel, be its future capital.
The legislation, sponsored by the far-right Jewish Home coalition party, raises to 80 from 61 the number of votes required in the 120-seat lawmaking body to approve any proposal to hand over part of the city to "a foreign party," a term meant to refer to the city's Indigenous Palestinian population.
Last month, Trump set off regional anger with his announcement that Washington would move its embassy to Jerusalem – a gesture that implied a U.S. recognition of unilateral Israeli claims to the divided and unlawfully-held Arab city.
Trump's Dec. 6 decision sparked regional protests and prompted the Palestinians to rule out Washington as a peace broker in any future talks.
On Tuesday night, U.S. President Donald Trump showed little regard for the "deal of the century" he had previously promoted (without spelling out its details), tweeting that the Palestinians have shown "no appreciation or respect" for U.S. aid.
"It's not only Pakistan that we pay billions of dollars to for nothing, but also many other countries, and others. As an example, we pay the Palestinians HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect. They don’t even want to negotiate a long overdue peace treaty with Israel," he said.
Continuing, the former real estate mogul hinted at the possibility that the U.S. would have extracted further concessions from the Israelis, a move that had never previously been floated by his administration.
"We have taken Jerusalem, the toughest part of the negotiation, off the table, but Israel, for that, would have had to pay more. But with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?"
Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, described Trump's policy shift on Jerusalem and the passage of the amendment as "a declaration of war against the Palestinian people."
"The vote clearly shows that the Israeli side has officially declared an end to the so-called political process," Abu Rdainah said, referring to U.S.-sponsored talks on Palestinian statehood that collapsed in 2014.
Israel captured East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it in a move that was rejected internationally and continues to enjoy little recognition. It says the entire city is its "eternal and indivisible" capital.
The amendment, long in the legislative pipeline, was passed with 64 lawmakers voting in favor and 52 against.
Opposition head Isaac Herzog said Jewish Home was leading Israel "toward a terrible disaster". Jewish Home's leader, Naftali Bennett, said on Twitter that the vote showed that Israel would keep control of all of Jerusalem forever and that "there will be no more political skulduggery that will allow our capital to be torn apart."
A bid to revive Israeli-Palestinian negotiations led by the president's adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has so far shown no progress.
Meanwhile, on Sunday Netanyahu's Likud party unanimously passed a non-binding resolution urging Likud parliamentarians to push for the annexation of occupied territories in the West Bank. The non-binding vote called on MPs "to spread Israeli sovereignty over Judea and Samaria," the biblical terms used by Jewish radical settlers to refer to the occupied Palestinian regions.
Political commentators said Likud's decision will bolster far-right support for Netanyahu, who could seek a public mandate in an early election while he awaits possible criminal indictments against him on corruption suspicions. He denies wrongdoing.
While the prime minister claims he still supports a “two-state solution” with the people of Palestine who have faced seven decades of continuous dispossession, he has also pushed for Jewish settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank, a move that is illegal even in the courts of the Israeli occupation state.
Parliamentary elections are not due until November 2019 but the police investigations in two cases of alleged corruption against Netanyahu and tensions among coalition partners in his government could hasten a poll.
Some commentators, pointing to an existing law that already sets a similar high threshold for handing over territory in a land-for-peace deal, have said Jewish Home was essentially competing with Likud for support among the right-wing base.