Lapid to back bill calling for referendum on any peace deal

Akunis says the Likud faction argued on whether Judea and Samaria should be added to the referendum bill.

Finance Minister Yair Lapid 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Finance Minister Yair Lapid 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) plans to support legislation that requires a referendum on the terms of a peace treaty with the Palestinians.
The government will probably vote as early as this Sunday on whether to place the matter before the public.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Monday that his government would pass such a law. Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett (Bayit Yehudi) has threatened to withhold his support for the budget if progress is not made on legislation relating to the referendum.
Earlier this year, Lapid brought Bennett’s referendum proposal to his faction for a discussion, but postponed a vote until it became more relevant after many in the party voiced opposition to the move.
In the end, Lapid decided late Monday night that his party will back the prime minister’s referendum bill.
However, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, chairwoman of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, repeated her commitment to vote against the referendum at every opportunity, with the agreement of most of her party.
The exception is MK Elazar Stern (Hatnua), who Livni gave permission to vote according to his conscience on diplomatic issues.
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman opposes a referendum, but has said that he will support it if it becomes government policy. He gave his ministers permission to vote as they see fit.
Meanwhile, at a Land of Israel caucus meeting in the Knesset on Tuesday, several MKs warned that a referendum could be problematic for the Right.
“It is wrong of the Right to rely on a referendum and say, ‘The people will decide,’” Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin (Likud Beytenu) said.
“Before [a peace treaty] gets to the people, the politicians will decide, and people cannot forget that.”
Deputy Minister for Liaison with the Knesset Ofir Akunis said the Likud faction argued last night on whether Judea and Samaria should be added to the referendum bill.
“The fight is about Judea and Samaria; they have to be in the bill,” Akunis stated, adding that he is working on the referendum legislation in the Prime Minister’s Office.
In the evening, Bennett, Elkin and Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel (Bayit Yehudi) traveled to the Shilo settlement in the Binyamin region to participate in the inauguration of a visitor’s center at the biblical archeology site there.
“The Land of Israel belongs to the people of Israel,” Bennett said, as he stood on a stage near where the Ark of the Covenant was housed in biblical times.
He promised, in the name of the government, that building would continue in Judea and Samaria and Jerusalem.
Elkin said it was symbolic that people had gathered in Shilo on the eve of the renewal of talks with the Palestinians, and added that while he supported talks with the Palestinians, the issue was not the concept of talks, but their substance.
“We need to talk with the Palestinians about how to keep Shilo, not how to give it up,” Elkin said. “We have to talk about where we are staying and why. That can only happen through a connection to our roots.”
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.