61 MKs back bill against Golan withdrawal

Bill designed to make it harder for gov't to cede the Golan Heights to Syria by a two-thirds majority.

Golan 224.88 (photo credit: Jonathan Beck)
Golan 224.88
(photo credit: Jonathan Beck)
A multi-party bill designed to make it harder for the government to cede the Golan Heights to Syria received an initial promise of 61 signatures Monday even before it was filed by MK Eliyahu Gabbi (NU-NRP). Sixty of those parliamentarians, including coalition minister and Shas party leader Eli Yishai, have already signed a petition in support of the bill on Monday. The 61st MK has promised to sign it Tuesday morning, at which point Gabbi intends to submit it to the Knesset. While 61 signatures are required to pass the bill, Gabbi did not need that many names to file the legislation. But he gathered them nonetheless as a show of strength both in support of the legislation and against any governmental steps to return the Golan to Syria. The proposed law would require a two-thirds parliamentary majority - 80 MKs - in order to approve any concessions on the Golan Heights. At present, the Golan could be given away with only a majority of votes. Among those who have signed the anti-Golan withdrawal bill are Labor MK Yoram Marciano, Kadima MKs Ronit Tirosh, David Tal, Marina Solodkin, Tzahi Hanegbi, Otniel Schneller and Ze'ev Elkin. In addition, members of Likud, Shas, Israel Beiteinu, the National Union-National Religious Party and the Gil Pensioners Party, as well as its breakaway faction, have signed on. To emphasize their opposition to the Golan withdrawal, almost 30 parliamentarians attended the first meeting of the newly convened pro-Golan lobby, which was held in the Knesset. The vast majority of those present were members of right-wing opposition parties, including Likud party leader Binyamin Netanyahu. But the meeting drew a number of coalition members such as Marciano, the lone Labor signer on Gabbai's proposed bill. "I came here to support the Golan. I signed onto [Gabbi's] bill," said Marciano. "I have signed onto your fight. I say "no" to returning the Golan." Elkin, who lives in the West Bank and is among the more right-wing members of his party, said that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert lacks Kadima support for the measure. "There is no support for territorial concessions in the Golan, not in [Olmert's] party, not in the government and not in this Knesset." He said giving up the Golan is not part of the Kadima party platform and so there is no mandate to act on it. During the last elections, Kadima promised the people in the Golan to support them and secured many votes there as a result, including in Katzrin in the Golan, where Kadima won a majority of support. He called on Olmert to reveal what he has really said during the negations with the Syrians or to step down. "Kadima has no place for a leader that wants to give back the Golan," Elkin said. "I will work to take him down if he pursues this course." MK Effi Eitam (NU-NRP), said all those parliamentarians who truly love the Golan should put their money where their mouth was and vote for a no-confidence motion against the prime minister. "And we'll see who votes," Eitam said, adding that it was impossible to support the Golan and the government at the same time . His comments drew a retort from Shas MKs, who noted that one could oppose a Golan pullout without toppling the government. Eitam, a Golan resident and long-time advocate on its behalf, warned that Olmert and other proponents of a Golan pullout would manipulate three points in their campaign: security, peace and US policy. The government would say that it is in Israel's security interest to withdraw, he said, but most security experts believe it is impossible to defend Israel against Syria without the Golan. The government had promised that Israelis would be able to eat hummus in Damascus, but after 30 years of peace with Egypt, he said, they still can't have hummus in Cairo - far from pressuring Israel to make peace with Syria, the US is opposed to the talks. "What we have with Egypt is quiet, but we also have that in the Golan," Eitam said. "We have to stop the virtual expectations that won't come to fruition." He said he was not opposed to negotiations with Syria, as long as they did not lead a withdrawal. What is dangerous in this case, he said, is that withdrawal is the starting point for the negotiations rather then the end of the process. "Negotiations mean that we have agreed to return the Golan."