The Ministerial Committee on Legislation approved a bill on Monday requiring a
national referendum before relinquishing land in Jerusalem and the Golan
Heights, but the legislation still faces an uphill battle due to fierce
opposition from Defense Minister Ehud Barak (Labor) and Knesset Speaker Reuven
Rivlin (Likud).RELATED:My Word: Nagging 'Nakba' issues
Submitted by Knesset House Committee chairman Yariv Levin
(Likud), the legislation would require either a national referendum or a
supporting Knesset vote of 80 MKs in any instance in which Israel agreed in
diplomatic talks to hand over areas under Israel sovereignty (i.e., in Jerusalem
beyond the Green Line or on the Golan Heights).
According to the bill,
any such deal would, within 180 days, be put to a national referendum that would
be run by the Central Elections Committee.
The day of the vote would not
be a work holiday.
With the government’s support, the bill is likely to
pass in the coming weeks, provided that Barak does not persuade Netanyahu to
prevent it from coming to a vote.
Barak called the bill “a concrete block
on the head of efforts to advance the diplomatic process.” He complained about
the legislation in a meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at the
“The bill raises questions about the government’s desire and
ability to lead the peace process,” Barak said, in a statement released by the
“The government pledged to advance the peace process,
and this unnecessary bill serves as an obstacle to this process. The Israeli
public wants a diplomatic process that focuses on security issues and an end to
the conflict. The ministerial committee’s decision fundamentally harms the
possibility to realize this objective,” he said.
Rivlin said, in his
speech opening the Knesset’s winter session, that the government could not use a
referendum to bypass the Knesset. The real referendum that should be used to
gauge public opinion was Knesset elections, he said.
“Referendums are not
rabbits that can be pulled out of a hat at difficult times,” Rivlin
“Reforms can be made, but the government cannot coerce the Knesset
to accept steps taken using improper methods.”
Ministers who voted in
favor of the bill included Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli
Edelstein (Likud), Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat (Likud) and Science
and Technology Minister Daniel Herschkowitz (Habayit Hayehudi).
and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog (Labor) and Deputy Prime Minister Dan
Meridor (Likud) voted against it.
Meridor pushed to equalize the bill by
also requiring a referendum in order to annex territory.
will be submitted this week by MK Ophir Akunis (Likud) that would require a
referendum on any deal with the Palestinian Authority. Akunis will ask the House
Committee to expedite this legislation.
MK Danny Danon (Likud) submitted
a bill that would require a prime minister to bring any potential peace deal to
the Knesset before signing it.Rebecca Anna Stoil and Michal Toiba
contributed to this report.