Knesset sets standards for national referenda on ceding land

"Any agreement concerning the Golan Heights will have to ultimately face approval from the nation."

golan heights 224 88 ap (photo credit: AP)
golan heights 224 88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
Despite impassioned arguments among MKs on the diplomatic implications of a law requiring a national referendum to renounce claims to territory, the Knesset's House and Law committees finished their first joint hearing on the proposed legislation two hours short of their six-hour time frame on Sunday. The joint session was chaired by House Committee chairman David Tal (Kadima), one of the bill's most vocal supporters. Law Committee chairman MK Menahem Ben-Sasson (Kadima) was also an active participant, playing the devil's advocate against Tal's lobbying in favor of the bill. "I want the hearings about this bill to be as in-depth and fundamental as possible," Tal said. "This is a series of decisions that will impact the future of the Land of Israel and it is important that every diplomatic body carrying out negotiations with Syria is aware that any agreement that could be signed concerning the Golan Heights will have to ultimately face approval from the nation." "The National Referendum Law would create a significant change in the governmental arrangement of Israel. This law should be legislated as a Basic Law and not as a law that can be overturned by a majority of 2 [MKs] to 1," complained Ben-Sasson. "Golan residents should understand that a Basic Law is what would defend them against the possible outcome that they fear. It seems to me that they understand this and all that remains for them is to help to convince the rest of the MKs." Justice Ministry representatives presented the bill's legal implications for future peace agreements as well as for the state's ability to hand over territory currently under Israeli authority. Lawmakers and representatives from the Foreign Ministry also examined precedents of territory handed over as a result of diplomatic negotiations, including the attempt at reaching an agreement in 1983 with Lebanon - an agreement that never saw fruition due to the opposition of the Lebanese government. MK Yitzhak Levy (NU/NRP) emphasized that the bill did not simply cover cases in which there was a negotiated deal with a second party, but also unilateral withdrawals from territory such as 2005's disengagement from the Gaza Strip. Legislators also decided the voting slips would simply read "for" and "against," to prevent the phrasing from influencing voters. To better inform voters, the full text of the relevant peace agreement - together with explanations - would be published on the Internet and available at all post offices and public libraries.