Coalition politicians debated the merits of requiring a referendum for any peace
agreement Monday, with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announcing he favors
such a vote.
“I support and respect the process, because if we reach a
diplomatic agreement, it can’t pass with a happenstance majority [in the
Knesset],” Netanyahu said at a Likud faction meeting.
leader Avigdor Liberman, however, said that he is not a proponent of the idea,
but would support it if the coalition does.
“A referendum is a way of
running away from making decisions,” he stated.
The issue of a referendum
on a peace treaty rose earlier this week, as Economy and Trade Minister Naftali
Bennett hopes to turn the existing law into a basic law, giving it
The current law, proposed by coalition chairman
Yariv Levin (Likud Beytenu), requires a referendum on any treaty that includes
giving up land under Israeli sovereignty. This means that a referendum would not
be necessary to give the Palestinian Authority control over more of Judea and
Samaria, but would be required to authorize land swaps.
Bayit Yehudi has yet to submit a bill on the topic and has not clarified whether
making Levin’s bill a basic law would suffice for the party, or if they would
want to expand it.
Still, politicians in the coalition and opposition
reacted as though Bennett has proposed a referendum on all peace
“A referendum only gives the nation veto power. It doesn’t let
citizens overturn the Knesset’s decision if it rejects a peace treaty,” Justice
Minister Tzipi Livni said.
Livni added that she believes the public will
support a peace treaty, and if not, it can vote in a new government.
don’t fear the public, but it’s [the government’s] job to make decisions,” she
Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich pointed out that Israel is a
representative democracy, and that every few years citizens vote for parties
they support, which are supposed to make decisions.
“There is not a hint
of democracy behind the idea of a referendum specifically about a diplomatic
treaty,” she said.
“The opposite is true. The selectiveness [in
referendum topics] speaks for itself.”
According to the Labor leader, by
requiring a referendum after negotiations, the government is setting itself up
for failure before it begins.
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