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Golan Heights 224.88.(Photo by: Matanya Tausig)
Knesset approves public holiday for Golan referendum vote
SHELLY PAZ
09/04/2008
House and Law committees also agree that public funds should not go towards party propaganda on the issue.
The House and Law committees approved on Thursday a nationwide vacation day in the event of a national referendum on the Golan Heights, and agreed that public funds should not go towards party propaganda on the issue. The committees assembled in the Knesset to discuss a bill that would require a national referendum before the government could agree to cede the Golan Heights to Syria as part of any potential peace deal. The committee members agreed that a national vacation day would be required for such a referendum, despite the cost to the economy of NIS 1.3 billion. A national referendum would require the positioning of ballot boxes in neutral locations, mainly schools and educational institutions, as well as the hiring of 50,000 people to staff them, said Tamar Edri, the director-general of the central elections committee. The committee further agreed that in the case of a peace agreement that included only the concession of a small part of the Golan Heights, such as the northern half of the village of Ghajar or the Shaba farms (Mount Dov), no referendum would be required, only the support of 80 MKs. MK Yitzhak Levy (National Union-National Religious Party) argued that due to the fact that even within a given party there might be disagreement on the issue, using public funds to represent the view of only the most powerful bloc in a given party would not be the most democratic solution. He suggested that parties (or any individuals or groups therein) that wanted to try to sway public opinion on the issue should be allowed to raise funds specially for this purpose, under the supervision of the state comptroller. Finally, the committee accepted Likud MK Gideon Sa'ar's argument that it was unreasonable that the entire nation should have to wait 90 days to find out the fate of the Golan Heights, should an agreement be reached. Sa'ar suggested this period be shortened to 45 days, but Edri objected and said that organizing a referendum would require more time. The committee decided in favor of Sa'ar, agreeing that a referendum would be carried out within 45 days of the Knesset approving to cede land in the Golan Heights. The committees will have a final discussion on the bill on Sunday, after which it must be brought to the House Committee and the Knesset plenum for a vote before becoming law.
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