Netanyahu backs referendum bill, wants public's support for withdrawals
Knesset expected to pass 'continuity law' that allows body to continue legislative discussions on bill obligating national referendum on withdrawals. 'Any historic peace agreement I bring will be based on support from majority of public,' PM says
The government is standing behind a bill obligating a national referendum be held if Israel is faced with withdrawing from the Golan Heights or east Jerusalem. The Ministerial Committee for Legislative Affairs rejected Tuesday the appeal submitted by Minister Dan Meridor against the referendum bill by a majority of five to two.
Minister Benny Begin joined Meridor in his opposition to the bill. Ministers Daniel Hershkowitz, Yuli Edelstein, Michael Eitan, Yakov Margi, and Yossi Peled blocked the appeal.
The bill proposes that should the government and the Knesset pass a decision to withdraw from territory under full Israeli sovereignty, such as the Golan Heights or east Jerusalem, that the issue be brought to a national referendum within 180 days of being passed by the Knesset. Only a vote of 80 members of Knesset or more will nullify the need for a referendum.
The bill was discussed in the previous Knesset. About a month ago, the Knesset was set to apply the "continuity law" that allows the body to continue legislative discussions from the point at which they left off. However, Meridor filed an appeal of the law, which blocked the vote at the last minute.
The following day, Ynet revealed Meridor's appeal of the bill. "This bill is an unnecessary and harmful burden on the State of Israel that will be perceived as placing stumbling blocks before any possible peace agreement," explained the minister.
This position was rejected by the Ministerial Committee for Legislative Affairs.
MK Yariv Levin, who chairs the committee and is in charge of preparing the bill for Knesset vote, said in a conversation with Ynet that he intends to bring the bill to the Knesset on Wednesday for a vote on pushing the bill through the legislative process.
"I praise the decision to reject the appeal submitted by Meridor," he said to Ynet. "I am glad that it will be possible to bring the bill to vote tomorrow to continue the legislative proceedings as it enjoys broad support in the Knesset and the government."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to support the bill. The PM said behind closed doors, "Any historic peace agreement I bring won't be based on a majority within the coalition but on substantial support from the majority of the public – be it in a referendum or elections."
Coalition chairman Zeev Elkin (Likud) told Ynet he estimates that the Knesset will approve the "continuity law".
"The bill has the full support of Likud and of some Kadima members; this will guarantee the approval of the 'continuity law'," he said, adding, "I expect members of the Labor party, including its ministers, to respect the coalition's position and back the law."
Labor MK Eitan Cabel said in response, "A number of Labor members, myself included, voted in favor of the bill in a preliminary reading in the previous Knesset after receiving assurances that the law will apply only to the Golan Heights.
"If I will be assured of this tomorrow (Wednesday) I'll vote in favor of the bill, and if not - I'll vote against," he said.
Sources close to Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Ynet that Labor opposes the bill calling for a referendum. It is unclear at this time how party members will vote should the Knesset plenum hear the motion.
Amnon Meranda and Attila Somfalvi contributed to this report