The government will pass a law requiring a referendum on any peace treaty, Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced Monday.
“For years, I have said
that any diplomatic agreement must be brought to a referendum,” Netanyahu said
at a press conference in the Knesset.
“An agreement that does not get the
authorization of the nation is not worthy of being signed.”
minister explained that a peace treaty is different from other decisions,
because it “determines destinies,” and every citizen ought to have his or her
say on it.
“I will bring supplementary legislation [on a referendum] to
the government and then the Knesset,” Netanyahu stated.
“This is a law
that passed in the last Knesset, but we will supplement and strengthen it by
making it a government bill.”
Netanyahu added that “attaining peace is a
vital goal for the State of Israel. Peace and security are difficult and complex goals, and
we must work toward our vital goals and our security through
“Peace with our neighbors requires peace among ourselves,
and the way to ensure this is through a referendum,” he concluded.
source close to Netanyahu said that he is unlikely to bring the bill to a vote
in its final readings during the Knesset summer recess, even though he legally
could. He said the most likely scenario is that it would be passed into law when
the Knesset returns to session on October 13.
followed an ultimatum by Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett that unless
the coalition makes progress on the Referendum Bill, his party will vote against
In light of Bennett’s demands, coalition chairman Yariv Levin
(Likud Beytenu) expressed confidence that an emergency Ministerial Committee for
Legislation meeting will take place this week to discuss a bill submitted by
Levin and Bayit Yehudi MKs Ayelet Shaked and Orit Struck on Monday morning that
would turn an existing law requiring a referendum on any peace talk with land
swaps into a Basic Law.
“We will support the budget, but insist that the
referendum move forward by then,” Bennett said at a Bayit Yehudi faction meeting
Monday. “A referendum is a way to stop the nation from being torn
The Referendum Bill is one of two bills the Bayit Yehudi- Likud
Beytenu coalition agreement says must be passed in the current Knesset session,
which ends August 4.
The Referendum Law, which passed in 2010, states
that any peace agreement in which Israel gives up sovereign land must be
approved via referendum if less than 80 MKs vote in favor of the treaty.
Evacuating parts of the West Bank would not require a referendum, but dividing
Jerusalem, giving away the Golan Heights or signing a land-swap deal
Levin, Shaked and Struck’s bill turns the existing Referendum Law
into a Basic Law, giving it constitutional value and reinforcing the law so it
can only be canceled by a majority of 61 MKs. This would make it very difficult
for the current law to be canceled if the government comes to an agreement with
Netanyahu signaled that his planned Referendum Bill
will be different from the aforementioned one, because he said he will
“strengthen [the existing law] by making it a government bill,” and not by
making it a Basic Law, though some in the coalition said the prime minister
would simply adopt the Levin-Shaked- Struck version as government
Bennett explained that he made this ultimatum so the bill
will progress quickly.
“I said Bayit Yehudi will not sit in a government
that negotiates based on ’67 lines, and now it isn’t happening. When we
insist, we bring results,” he said.
Bennett referred to the Oslo Accords,
which passed 20 years ago, saying it was approved “by a margin of one vote by a
political deserter who was given a job.”
“We remember – it has been 8
years since the disengagement and 20 since Oslo. We will not lend a hand
to ‘Mitsubishi agreements,’” he quipped, referring to the car given to deputy
ministers at the time of Oslo. “We’re still eating their rotten fruits,” he
“Bayit Yehudi opposes a Palestinian state and we oppose giving
the Land of Israel to our enemies, period. This is the land of our
fathers, and only the people can decide what to do with it. Nothing will
go wrong if we hold a referendum on the future of our nation; this will have an
effect on future generations, the great-grandchildren of our great
Later Monday, Levin said that he, Shaked and Struck
submitted the bill that morning because they were confident it would
Levin is working to arrange a Ministerial Committee for Legislation
meeting to take place by Wednesday so it can be brought to a first vote next
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, chairwoman of the Ministerial
Committee for Legislation, adamantly opposes a referendum, reiterating her
opinion in Monday’s Hatnua faction meeting.
Yesh Atid has yet to
officially decide whether or not to support a referendum, and opinions are split
within the party.
Earlier this year, the faction discussed the matter,
but decided to postpone a decision until the bill came up for a
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman opposes a referendum on the
grounds that elections give the government a mandate to make
However, he said he would support the Referendum Bill if the
coalition decides to back it.
Meanwhile, opposition leader Shelly
Yacimovich called Bennett’s ultimatum a “spin” and accused him of being “very
selective” about referendums.
“If they believe that democratic elections
aren’t enough, why isn’t there a referendum on the budget? The budget hurts 99
percent of the public, and the public clearly understands economics better than
the government,” she stated.
According to Yacimovich, “the whole purpose
of a referendum is to torpedo the chances of diplomatic negotiations before they
“The goal isn’t peace talks,” she said. “Talks happen so
there will be an agreement that will allow us to continue our vision of a Jewish
and democratic state.”