Shortly before the Knesset began discussing the bill, the Kadima faction held a vote of its own which revealed that that 14 of its members oppose the law, three support it and three plan to abstain.
Therefore, it was decided not to give the faction members freedom of vote, but to allow those who don't want to vote against the bill to be absent from the Knesset plenum during the vote.
Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni said during the meeting, "Today's proposal refers to the question of a referendum in general and not to the issue this specific proposal talks about.
"This is a matter of principle, and it has nothing to do with who wants to concede parts of the law. These kinds of decisions must be made by a leadership which understands the magnitude of the problems and is exposed to all aspects. The people are not an alternative for the need for such leadership."
Livni did not miss the opportunity to slam Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "What we have here is a weak prime minister… This isn't about asking the people, but about vetoing decisions made by an elected government and Knesset. Any such decision is related to considerations which cannot all be conveyed to the public and which the public cannot be expected to understand in full."
She added that "this proposal binds the ability of leaders to make decisions, by expecting the people to make decisions which they don't have the tools to make. This has nothing to do with Left or Right, but with decision making in this democracy. There is one referendum, and that's general elections, and the prime minister must say the same thing before and after the elections."
Mofaz opposes move
Later on Monday, Kadima MK Shaul Mofaz commented on the faction's decision and said: "I didn’t like the voting arrangement that Kadima decided on today and that is why I abstained. In 2008, many of Kadima's members voted in favor of the referendum in first reading, I was one of them, along with others who today refuse to support the bill. Those who changed their minds should be asked what motivated them."
He further added, "The public is clever and understands a great deal of what those who do not wish a referendum think. I support the bill but will not vote in the plenum because I respect the democratic decision that was reached in the plenum."
Mofaz explained his support of the bill by saying that a referendum is "a democratic tool which allows social involvement and helps unity." He also noted that a public-endorsed decision bolsters leadership.
Meanwhile, the Labor Party authorized its chairman, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, to ask Prime Minister Netanyahu to postpone Monday's vote on the referendum bill.
Only two faction members, Ministers Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and Shalom Simhon, expressed their support for the bill. The faction decided to hold another discussion should Netanyahu refuse to postpone the vote.
Shas to support bill
After years of opposing any type of referendum, Shas and United Torah Judaism Knesset members are slated to vote in favor of the bill. The Shas faction decided to endorse the bill while the United Torah Judaism will allow its members freedom of vote.
In the past, the haredim opposed any initiative to hold a referendum even when it served their interests in order to avoid a precedence which will allow the public to change the status quo on state and religion matters.
The change in the haredi stance was made possible due to an innovative halachic ruling issued by Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. The rabbi ruled that concrete matters such as the future of Jerusalem and the Golan Heights override any theoretic concern.
MK Yariv Levin managed to persuade the United Torah Judaism faction that a referendum will only be conducted in matters pertaining to withdrawal from Israeli territories and will not be used in other issues.
MK Uri Maklev (United Torah Judaism) said he will consult on the matter with Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, while other faction members are slated to each consult with their own rabbis.
Attila Somfalvi contributed to this report
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