PM: Referendum Law is democratic and responsible

Defense minister says law ties government's hands; Rivlin says prevents plenum from making decisions, calls Knesset "completely average."

November 23, 2010 14:05
2 minute read.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu

Netanyahu headshot. (photo credit: Marc Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

The National Referendum Law which was passed by the Knesset on Monday night is "democratic and responsible," Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Tuesday afternoon.

"Anyone making deals with national implications should not be worried about bringing those agreements before the nation," he said during a visit to Israel Airspace Industries, next to Ben-Gurion International Airport.

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The prime minister added, "I think that the referendum law which passed in the Knesset yesterday is of utmost importance. It ensures that... if we enter into peace process, even one which could have historic results, the public knows that at the end of the day, it will decide: Not parliamentary maneuvering, not chance, but rather the nation will decide, and I have faith in the Israeli people. I think that Israel is a wise, intelligent nation, and I'm convinced that if we present an agreement, it will pass."

Earlier in the day, Defense Minister Ehud Barak attacked the law, saying it "chains the hands of the government." He added, "I don't think this law is urgent or pressing," saying that it could "have uses for our opponents."

Speaking more generally of the peace process, he said, "We have no choice but to separate from the Palestinians, it's the only way to ensure the future of Zionism."

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin added his view, saying 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 civilian 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

Also on Tuesday, Labor MK Eitan Cabel voiced similar sentiments, telling Israel Radio that the law prevents the Knesset from making decisions.

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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