Knesset committee to debate Golan bill

Hearing on referendum to go forward; Erdogan to meet Assad to discuss Israel peace talks.

golan heights 224 88 ap (photo credit: AP)
golan heights 224 88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
A special Knesset committee headed by MK Ze'ev Elkin (Kadima) gave the approval Wednesday for a debate on the Golan referendum bill to go forward. The bill would require any government to hold a national referendum before turning the Golan Heights over to Syria in a peace deal. "This is the answer in light of international pressure on the issues of Jerusalem and the Golan. I am convinced that this bill will pass in the Knesset vote and the status of Jerusalem and the Golan will be strengthened," said MK Uri Ariel (National Union). Ariel went on to say, "This is a clear political signal to countries worldwide and especially the United States and Europe that in order to disengage from territories under Israeli control, we must ask the people." Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was due to meet with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus on Wednesday, Israel Radio reported. The two were set to discuss the Turkish-mediated indirect peace talks with Israel which came to a halt late last year when Israel launched Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip. Last week, the hearing on the Golan referendum bill was postponed after Kadima faction chairwoman Dalia Itzik and Meretz leader Haim Oron said that there was no urgency to hold the hearing in an already-busy week, and asked that Elkin postpone it to a later date to allow MKs to assess the implications of allowing the debate on the law to pick up where it left off in the last Knesset. The hearing was scheduled after a meeting of cabinet members decided to support the law earlier last week, and was slated to be held by a joint session of the House and Law Committees. Itzik and Oron had upbraided coalition chairman MK Ze'ev Elkin, telling him that the "forbidden method through which hearings were held on the Economic Arrangements Law and the budget - short hearings without receiving full information and without an in-depth discussion - should disappear from the face of the earth, and should not be repeated as a general practice for Knesset legislation." Last Sunday, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation voted to revive the bill and to submit it to the Knesset committees to give the approval necessary to continue the process on the bill that was filed during the previous Knesset. The bill was supposed to be submitted for its second and third readings on the first day of the winter session of the last Knesset, but the elections intervened. At the time, the bill was considered a stopgap measure to try to prevent prime minister Ehud Olmert from turning over the Golan Heights as part of an agreement with Syria, and as such, enjoyed a wide margin of support in its previous reading on the house floor. The legislation allows for two instances in which a referendum will not be required - if the concession passes the Knesset by a two-thirds majority with 80 MKs supporting the concession, or if a general election is held within 180 days of the Knesset approving the cabinet decision.