Ramon: Peace may go to referendum

Vice premier says Annapolis agreements won't be implemented until PA reins in terror.

Abbas meets Rice 224 (photo credit: AP)
Abbas meets Rice 224
(photo credit: AP)
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will present any peace deal formulated at the upcoming Annapolis peace summit to the Israeli people for approval if his Kadima-based coalition breaks up following the conference, Vice Premier Haim Ramon said in the Knesset on Monday. Ramon, who added that "everything would be put on the table" during the summit, said Olmert would not be bullied by partners in his coalition threatening to leave the government. In an interview on the Knesset Channel, Ramon said he was certain that Olmert would ask the public to approve any agreement reached at the summit later this year, hinting at either calling new elections or a national referendum. If after Annapolis, there is an agreement with the Palestinians, Ramon said, "I am sure that Olmert will take it to the people." The Prime Minister's Office declined to comment on Ramon's statements, considered by some to be a "trial balloon." Last week, Israel Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman presented Olmert with a document outlining a series of "red lines" that could not be crossed if Israel Beiteinu were to stay in the coalition. "We won't remain partners in the government if there are significant negotiations on the core subjects," said Lieberman. Ramon, however, has argued that everything, including the controversial issue of Jerusalem, should be discussed in the summit. Ramon attempted to reassure the coalition partners by promising that even if a framework for a final status agreement was outlined at the conference, it would not be implemented until the Palestinian Authority, led by PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salaam Fayad, was strengthened. The vice premier said that Israel would not make any concessions until the PA leadership reined in terror groups and proved its ability to be responsible for the Palestinian territories. "The implementation of this process will take a long time," he warned. Kadima MKs dismissed Ramon's statements, arguing that he was jumping the gun and expecting too much from Annapolis. "Nobody is expecting what Ramon seems to be expecting from Annapolis. At this point we are not even sure the Palestinians are coming," said one Kadima MK. "Ramon is not a close associate of Olmert at this time, and therefore not really a part of the internal talks surrounding Annapolis." The MK added that Olmert would not let the coalition fall apart at the expense of the summit. "No public referendum will be necessary because it is unlikely that anything realistic will come out of the summit," said the MK. Meanwhile, Kadima MKs sharply criticized a speech given by Defense Minister Ehud Barak at Saturday night's memorial rally in Tel Aviv for assassinated prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, calling the Labor leader "opportunist" and "inappropriate." "The speech was inappropriate and I didn't like the words or the sentiment," said MK Amira Dotan, who filed a formal complaint to have Barak's speech discussed at Monday's faction meeting. "I cannot keep silent on this matter," Dotan said. "I feel uncomfortable knowing that this is the man we're in business with." Barak's speech called for the Left to "unite and bring the hope back to the country." He added that the Left could once again lead Israel. Sources close to Olmert added that he was also uncomfortable with the political implications of the speech. "The speech sounded more like a slogan for the campaign trail, rather than a tribute at a memorial event," said MK Shai Hermesh. Labor Party officials declined to comment on the speech, but said that the party would continue to honor the memory of Rabin as they saw fit.