After running afoul of Golan Heights residents and fellow Likud MKs for his quick work to delay an upcoming vote on the Golan Referendum Law, Intelligence Agencies Minister Dan Meridor received an unexpected leg up Tuesday night from Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud).
Rivlin said that "Meridor has the right to express his opinion, and it is the government that must decide. He has a clear stance, Likud welcomed him back in spite of those stances. In a pluralistic party like the Likud, every opinion is respected but decisions are reached - and the Likud's decision is that no discussion should be held on pulling out of the Golan."
Rivlin, who is known to represent the party's right wing just as Meridor represents its left, also took the opportunity to pooh-pooh the bill in question as irrelevant. "Israel holds a public referendum once every four years when it votes for Knesset," said Rivlin. Furthermore, said Rivlin, any government would be hard-pressed to find a majority of MKs - 61- who would vote in favor of a move to return the basalt heights to Syria.
The speaker did, however, note that out of respect for party discipline, he would vote in favor of the bill if told to do so.
Rivlin's comments came a day after Meridor engineered a delay in starting voting on the legislation, that would require the government to hold a national referendum in order to approve any return of lands under full Israeli authority. In his appeal to the bill, which Meridor submitted three months ago, the minister explained that such a requirement would "add a harmful and unnecessary burden on the state of Israel, which will be seen as mounting hardships against any possible peace agreement."
But Likud back-benchers were less supportive of Meridor's initiative. MK Yariv Levine said that although the Likud embraces a wide ideological spectrum, all faction members should fall into line behind party decisions to support - or oppose - any given bill.
MK Danny Danon said that Meridor's appeal "contradicted the Likud's policy as I and other movement members expressed it in the course of the elections campaign." Danon asked Likud Faction Chairman Ze'ev Elkin to discuss the matter in the upcoming faction meeting scheduled for next Monday.
"The Likud's position is clear. Before the last elections, the Likud went to the Golan Heights with the clear statement by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that "we will not leave the Golan,'" added Danon.
In July, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation voted to revive the bill and to submit it to the Knesset committees in order to give the approval necessary to continue process on a bill that was filed during the previous Knesset.
The bill was supposed to be submitted for its second and third readings on the first day of the Winter Session of the last Knesset, but the elections intervened, and the bill remains stalled in place.