J’lem-Golan land referendum bill set to advance

Knesset reconvenes after three-month recess; will be divided on matters of religion and state during new session.

Knesset (photo credit: Ariel Jerozlimski )
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozlimski )
A bill requiring a national referendum before relinquishing land in Jerusalem and the Golan Heights is expected to pass easily in a special meeting of the Ministerial Committee on Legislation on Monday, laying the groundwork for it to become law within weeks.
The bill, submitted by Knesset House Committee chairman Yariv Levin (Likud), had already passed its first reading in the Knesset and Levin’s committee without the support of the Prime Minister’s Office.
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Once it passes the ministerial committee, it will have the government’s support and would then be able to easily pass its final readings.
The legislation would require a national referendum in any instance in which Israel agreed in diplomatic talks to hand over areas that have been annexed (i.e., Jerusalem beyond the Green Line) or to which Israeli law has been extended (i.e., the Golan Heights).
According to the bill, any such deal must be approved by the Knesset and then put to a national referendum within 180 days. The bill tasks the Central Elections Committee with running any referendum, and would declare any referendum day to be equivalent to an election day.
The format of the referendum question will be phrased, simply: “Are you in favor of or opposed to the agreement approved by the Knesset?” Another bill will be submitted this week by MK Ophir Akunis (Likud) that would require a referendum on any deal with the Palestinian Authority; Akunis will ask the House Committee to expedite the legislation.
The Knesset, which returns Monday from a three-month recess, will also be divided on matters of religion and state during the new session, as Shas and United Torah Judaism intend to submit several controversial bills.
President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and opposition leader Tzipi Livni will address the Knesset plenum, followed by no-confidence votes on diplomatic and economic issues.
Unlike past opening sessions, Monday’s meeting will not be attended by members of the Schalit family. The family is invited to all special sessions of the Knesset but decided to boycott Monday’s meeting to protest the government’s lack of effort to return home their son, Gilad, more than four years after his kidnapping.
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin told Channel 1 on Sunday night that due to the many controversial issues that the coalition will face during its winter session, it would be a “miracle” if elections are not declared by the time the session ends in the spring.