Parties spar over referendum on peace treaty

PM favors vote on giving up land, Liberman, Livni, Yacimovich oppose, while Bayit Yehudi has yet to submit proposal.

Netanyahu, Obama, Abbas (photo credit: REUTERS/Jason Reed)
Netanyahu, Obama, Abbas
(photo credit: REUTERS/Jason Reed)
Coalition politicians debated the merits of requiring a referendum for any peace agreement Monday, with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announcing he favors such a vote.
“I support and respect the process, because if we reach a diplomatic agreement, it can’t pass with a happenstance majority [in the Knesset],” Netanyahu said at a Likud faction meeting.
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, however, said that he is not a proponent of the idea, but would support it if the coalition does.
“A referendum is a way of running away from making decisions,” he stated.
The issue of a referendum on a peace treaty rose earlier this week, as Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett hopes to turn the existing law into a basic law, giving it constitutional status.
The current law, proposed by coalition chairman Yariv Levin (Likud Beytenu), requires a referendum on any treaty that includes giving up land under Israeli sovereignty. This means that a referendum would not be necessary to give the Palestinian Authority control over more of Judea and Samaria, but would be required to authorize land swaps.
In addition, Bayit Yehudi has yet to submit a bill on the topic and has not clarified whether making Levin’s bill a basic law would suffice for the party, or if they would want to expand it.
Still, politicians in the coalition and opposition reacted as though Bennett has proposed a referendum on all peace treaties.
“A referendum only gives the nation veto power. It doesn’t let citizens overturn the Knesset’s decision if it rejects a peace treaty,” Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said.
Livni added that she believes the public will support a peace treaty, and if not, it can vote in a new government.
“I don’t fear the public, but it’s [the government’s] job to make decisions,” she stated.
Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich pointed out that Israel is a representative democracy, and that every few years citizens vote for parties they support, which are supposed to make decisions.
“There is not a hint of democracy behind the idea of a referendum specifically about a diplomatic treaty,” she said.
“The opposite is true. The selectiveness [in referendum topics] speaks for itself.”
According to the Labor leader, by requiring a referendum after negotiations, the government is setting itself up for failure before it begins.