Referendum bill will only apply to Golan

Legislators frustrate those hoping to see law applied to areas such as Jerusalem and the West Bank.

golan heights 224 88 ap (photo credit: AP)
golan heights 224 88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
The Golan Heights National Referendum Bill will only apply to the eponymous northern region, legislators decided Tuesday, frustrating the anticipations of those who had hoped to see the law applied to areas such as Jerusalem and the West Bank. During the second marathon session of joint committee hearings between the Law and House committees to hammer out the details of the proposed legislation, committee members came to the conclusion that the bill would pertain only to the Golan Heights and not to other areas of Israel, including Jerusalem. The agreement, said the bill's supporters, was brokered in order to secure the widest possible margin of support for the bill. House Committee chairman David Tal (Kadima) said that he planned to submit the National Referendum Bill for a plenum vote on the first day the plenum meets after the almost three-month-long summer recess. Among the topics discussed in the hearing Tuesday was whether party-funding budgets would be used to subsidize the referendum, requiring each party to take a stance for or against the question. Another proposal was to create a "pro" bloc and an "anti" bloc, and to supply funding per bloc. Election funding expert Prof. Menahem Hofnong explained that in most of the countries in which national referenda are held, the funding is distributed per bloc and not through parties. MKs disagreed on whether or not donations should be accepted. Some favored allowing donations on condition that they were subject to oversight by the State Comptroller's Office, while others argued that donations would enable interested parties to influence political and diplomatic decisions. Those opposed to donations expressed special concern over the potential influence of bribery and overseas donations. MKs also met with representatives of communications outlets to discuss commercials for the opposing sides in a national referendum. Representatives from the Keshet Broadcasting Corporation opposed broadcasting commercials in a similar style, arguing that it would harm the company's income by restricting its lucrative broadcasting time. Law Committee chairman Menahem Ben-Sasson (Kadima) argued that government funding should not be budgeted for the broadcasting of campaign commercials, but rather that the regulations should permit interested parties to run advertisements at their own expense during regularly-scheduled advertising blocks. Ben-Sasson argued that "the election advertisement laws are no longer relevant to the media of the 21st century." Tal said at the conclusion of the meeting that he would continue to schedule marathon sessions of the two committees throughout the recess to ensure that the complex legislation would be ready for its second and third readings as soon as the plenum reconvened in the last week of October. The latest hearing came only a day after MK Limor Livnat (Likud) called on Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz to force the government to cease negotiations with Syria and the Palestinian Authority until elections were held and a new government established, following the usual practice of a transitional government.