Netanyahu at cabinet meeting 370.
(photo credit: Pool/Eli Selman)
The cabinet will vote on Sunday on a new Basic Law requiring a referendum on
peace treaties affecting sovereign land. The Prime Minister’s Office distributed
a copy of the legislation to ministers for review on Thursday.
Law: Referendum” is expected to be approved in a ministerial vote and brought to
the Knesset for a first reading on Wednesday. The PMO is looking into the
possibility of bringing it back for second and third (final) readings on the
same day, allowing it to become law next week, a senior government source
Because the legislation only deals with sovereign land, the
government will not have to hold a referendum to sign a treaty giving parts of
Judea and Samaria to the Palestinians. However, if a peace agreement includes
land swaps or parts of Jerusalem, it would require a popular vote.
speedy legislative process is explained in the PMO’s introduction to the bill:
“In light of significant diplomatic developments leading to the opening of
negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, the government sees an importance
and urgency, together with talks, to pass a Basic Law requiring a referendum in
the case of an agreement or government decision requiring the concession of law,
judiciary and management of territory in the State of Israel.”
Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu’s quick movement on the bill came three days after Economy and Trade
Minister Naftali Bennett threatened that his Bayit Yehudi party would not
support the government’s budget, which will be brought to a vote Monday, if no
progress is made on the referendum bill.
Netanyahu pointed out that he
already supported the idea of a referendum because peace treaties “determine
destinies” and citizens ought to have a say in the matter.
our neighbors requires peace among ourselves, and the way to ensure this is
through a referendum,” the prime minister stated.
The government bill
calls for a law requiring a referendum after the government signs any treaty
giving away sovereign Israeli land, passed in 2010, to be turned into a Basic
Law. It is almost identical to a bill submitted by coalition chairman Yariv
Levin (Likud Beytenu) and Bayit Yehudi MKs Ayelet Shaked and Orit Struck earlier
Basic Laws are considered by the Supreme Court to have
ascendant, constitutional status.
The government bill also includes a
clause requiring support from a minimum of 61 MKs in order to cancel or change
the law, and saying that the law cannot be ignored because of emergency
Earlier this week, Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid)
decided his party would support the referendum bill. However, Justice Minister
Tzipi Livni, chairwoman of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, repeated
her commitment to vote against such legislation at every opportunity, with the
agreement of most of her party.
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman
opposes a referendum but has said that he would support the idea if it became
government policy. He gave his ministers permission to vote as they see
In addition to the referendum bill, the cabinet is also expected on
Sunday to appoint a ministerial committee to “oversee” the negotiations with the
Palestinians, which are expected to start this week in Washington.
Livni, accompanied by Netanyahu’s personal envoy, Yitzhak Molcho, will be the
chief negotiator for Israel, the ministerial committee – which will be smaller
than the seven-member security cabinet – is expected to set the overall
Some are viewing its establishment as an effort by those in
the Likud and on the coalition’s right flank to “keep an eye” on Livni, who is
considered on the government’s left edge.
One official said, however,
that Netanyahu and Livni meet often and were “well coordinated” on the
The ministerial committee is also expected to be
empowered with decisionmaking regarding when and how many Palestinian prisoners
will be released as part of the talks.
The committee is expected to be
made up of Netanyahu, Livni, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and Public Security
Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch. •