Livni objects to referendum on peace treaty

Bennett working on basic law requiring referendum on any peace treaty; Yesh Atid undecided, but Lapid open to the idea.

April 28, 2013 19:07
2 minute read.
Tzipi Livni at the President's residence, January 31, 2013.

Tzipi Livni at the President's residence 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)


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Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett is pushing for the government to pass a Basic Law requiring a referendum before any peace treaty with the Palestinians is signed, to mixed responses from coalition partners.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, the minister responsible for peace talks, said Sunday that she adamantly opposes the idea, while Finance Minister Yair Lapid is open to it, though many in Yesh Atid are not.

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The coalition agreement says there will be a referendum on a peace agreement “if necessary.”

A law passed in 2010 requires any agreement in which land under Israeli sovereignty is ceded to be brought to a referendum.

Bennett discussed the matter with Lapid last week, a source close to the Bayit Yehudi leader said Sunday.

“We want to build a bridge so that the nation isn’t torn apart if there are peace talks,” the source said. “A right-wing politician was bribed to vote for Oslo, and that’s not how decisions should be made,” the source added, hinting at former Tzomet MK Alex Goldfarb, who became a deputy minister in 1995 after voting against his party’s platform to support the Oslo Accords.

“A referendum is the most reasonable way to prevent a rift in the nation. It’s a decisionmaking mechanism,” the source explained.

Lapid told Bennett he would be willing to consider a referendum, but many in his party are likely to oppose it, such as Health Minister Yael German, a former member of Meretz, or Science, Technology and Space Minister Yaakov Peri, who is involved with the Geneva Initiative.

Yesh Atid faction chairman Ofer Shelah opposes a referendum, his spokeswoman said.

Yesh Atid’s official position on the matter will be decided in a faction meeting either this or next Monday.

Livni, however, said she opposes both the current law and Bennett’s efforts to turn it into a Basic Law, which would have a constitutional status.

“Anyone in Yesh Atid who wants a peace agreement must oppose this,” Livni told Army Radio. “We didn’t ask the nation if we want to control the territories, and no decision has been made yet to withdraw from them.”

According to the justice minister, a referendum would undermine democracy, because the Knesset is elected by citizens so its members can make decisions.

“A referendum is a way to prevent what the Knesset and government authorize, since it won’t happen before a decision, but after,” she pointed out. “I believe in the need and ability to explain decisions the government makes to the public.”

Livni added: “There are ramifications that could come from evacuating people from their homes, and it’s difficult to share the security issues with all citizens.

Imagine the tension in families, if one family member lives in a place that needs to be evacuated – how will his relatives vote?”

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