Referendum Bill passes first Knesset reading 66-45

VIDEO: Lively debate precedes vote to turn existing Referendum Law into a basic law; Netanyahu: Arab's weren't here before us.

Naftali Bennett makes post-election speech 370 (photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
Naftali Bennett makes post-election speech 370
(photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
The Knesset approved a bill turning the existing Referendum Law into a basic law in its first reading early Thursday morning.
The bill was supported by 66 MKs, with 45 MKs voting against the measure after a dramatic debate which included discussions of history and Zionism.
The referendum bill was pushed forward with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s outspoken support and following a demand from Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett that it be promoted.
The referendum bill reinforces existing law by making it a basic law, which means it would have constitutional status in the eyes of the Supreme Court. The current law requires a referendum on any concession of sovereign territory, in a peace treaty or as a unilateral move. Sovereign territory does not include Judea and Samaria, but it includes all of Jerusalem and any land swaps.
The referendum would be on the entire peace treaty or plan, not just the concession of sovereign territory, so it would, practically, include voting on giving away any part of Judea and Samaria if that is part of an agreement or unilateral disengagement plan.
During the Knesset discussion of the bill, MK Motti Yogev (Bayit Yehudi) said "the Land of Israel belongs to the people of Israel," and MK Jamal Zahalke (Balad) responded: "We [Arabs] were here before you and we'll be here after you."
In an unusual move, Netanyahu asked to take the podium and said to Zahalke: "The first part isn't true, and the second won't be."
Many MKs stood up and applauded, which is against the Knesset's rules.
"We were here first, because it says so in the Torah," UTJ MK Moshe Gafni pointed out, and Finance Minister Yair Lapid, who rarely agrees with Gafni on anything, shouted out "that's right."
Soon after, Bennett wrote on Facebook that he's proud of Netanyahu.
Bennett impassionedly defended the Referendum Bill, which his party insisted be promoted by this week, and argued with opposition MKs who spoke out against it.
"You in Shas want to teach me about loving the Land of Israel? [MK] Arye Deri is scolding me? The Land of Israel was divided on your backs!" Bennett said incredulously, referring to the Oslo Accords.
The Bayit Yehudi leader added that he doesn't understand why the Left is so concerned about a referendum if they think the nation wants two states for people.
MK Merav Michaeli (Labor) said that "the Bayit Yehudi don't want to let us reach a peace agreement and are looking for anyway to torpedo it."
According to MK Muhammad Barakei, the coalition is trying to create a "semi-fascist dictatorship."
Expressing opposition to the bill from a different standpoint, MK Nissim Ze'ev (Shas) said "A referendum will legitimize removing Jews from their homes."
Shas MK Avraham Michaeli added that a referendum is a "trick" and the Bayit Yehudi's voters will not forgive the party.
On Sunday, the referendum bill was approved in a ministerial vote.
Bennett, who demanded that the bill be promoted as a condition for the Bayit Yehudi’s support of the state budget, said the government chose to keep the nation of Israel united.
“The Land of Israel belongs to the grandfathers of our grandfathers and the grandsons of our grandsons and no one can give up our right to it,” he said. “Such a crucial decision cannot be made through political tricks.”
According to Bennett, “Every decision on giving up part of the land must be made by the public.”
“[The referendum bill will] prevent votes being bought by a Mitsubishi in order to approve controversial treaties,” Levin quipped in reference to former MK Alex Goldfarb who, in 1995, left the Tzomet party and voted in favor of the Oslo II Accords. Goldfarb became a deputy minister and received a Mitsubishi as a perk of his new post.
“I am convinced that the nation will not allow the government to give away parts of our homeland,” Levin added.
“As coalition chairman, I will act to ensure this bill moves forward quickly and will work to expand it so it includes all of Judea and Samaria.”
Meanwhile, MK Eitan Cabel (Labor) said “the prime minister is running away from leadership.
[Former prime ministers] Begin, Rabin and Sharon made fateful decisions, but took responsibility and understood that their job requires them to do what the nation needs and not what it wants.
“If the prime minister wants to present the public with an agreement with the Palestinians and feels a need to get the nation’s permission, he should call an election and gain the public’s confidence again,” Cabel said.