Erekat on referendum: Israel making a mockery of int'l law

Rivlin says National Referendum Law prevents Knesset from making decisions; MK Zahalka calls move an "unprecedented Israeli invention."

November 23, 2010 08:45
2 minute read.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat

Saeb Erekat 311 AP. (photo credit: AP)

Palestinian Authority chief negotiator Saeb Erekat on Monday slammed the Knesset's passing of the National Referendum Law which will require either a Knesset super-majority or a national referendum in order to hand over any annexed territories as part of a future peace deal.

"With the passage of this bill, the Israeli leadership, yet again, is making a mockery of international law," said Erekat. "Ending the occupation of our land is not and cannot be dependent on any sort of referendum."

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Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said on Tuesday that the Knesset's image has deteriorated, in part because of Knesset members' behavior.

"The Knesset is the most important place for making decisions," Rivlin said at a conference in Acre, and this law prevents the Knesset from doing so. However, he added, "the [current] Knesset is like a sick bed that people with impressive military or civillian records would not want to get into,"

"This Knesset is completely average...and it is clear that some of the Knesset members earned this image," he said

Earlier in the day, Labor MK Eitan Cabel voiced similar sentiments, telling Israel Radio that the law prevents the Knesset from making decisions.

Balad MK Jamal Zahalka described the law as, "an Israeli invention which is unprecedented in world history." Zahalka asserted, "the Knesset has no right to decide the future of Jerusalem or the Golan Heights," adding that it is, "not an Israeli internal affair. He said that the legislation was a "clear message that Israel does not want to reach a settlement or peace," Palestinian news agency Ma'an reported on Tuesday.

The Knesset passed the National Referendum Law during a late-night session Monday, approving legislation that will fundamentally alter Israeli negotiators’ ability to offer concrete peace deals involving the Golan Heights or east Jerusalem. The law passed by a vote of 65-33.

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.

Prior to the vote, Defense Minister Ehud Barak called the bill “a concrete block on the head of efforts to advance the diplomatic process,” on Monday. He complained about the legislation in a meeting with Netanyahu at the Knesset.

“The bill raises questions about the government’s desire and ability to lead the peace process,” Barak said, in a statement released by the Defense Ministry.

“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.

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