(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
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"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
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."
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
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin added his view, saying that the Knesset's image
has deteriorated, in part because of Knesset members' behavior.
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
"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
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
“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.