PA: Referendum law 'disregard of int'l law'
Chief Palestinian negotiator Erekat says newly approved Knesset law obligating government to seek public's approval on any withdrawal from territories under full Israeli sovereignty, conveys negative message 'as the end of the occupation cannot depend on any referendum.' Defense Minister Barak: Law could be used by our rivals
According to Erekat, the law – which obligates the government to seek the public's approval for any withdrawal from territories under full Israeli sovereignty – conveys a negative message, as "the end of the occupation cannot depend on any referendum."
Dr. Ghassan Khatib, director of the Palestinian Government Media Center, told Ynet that Monday's Knesset vote only complicated things and "critically damages the possibility of reviving the peace process."
According to Khatib, "The vote adds obstacles to the possibility to renew the peace process, and what we need is to remove obstacles – not to add new ones. This decision will have a negative impact on the process
Defense Minister Ehud Barak slammed the newly approved bill as well, saying that "it could be used by Israel's critics against us, claiming the State is binding itself." The Labor chairman did not participate in Monday's Knesset vote.
Speaking at a conference in the northern city of Akko on Tuesday, Barak added that "a law is a law. I'm not sure it's necessary and we must not let it be used by our rivals."
Barak went on to discuss the importance of separating from the Palestinians. "We must deal with all our might with the challenge of security and peace. We cannot do this without making decisions.
"The reality outside, and inside, is not simple. There is no choice but to separate from the Palestinians. Two states for two people is not a formula or a slogan. It's not like we are doing the Palestinians a favor."
Knesset Member Yariv Levin (Likud), who led the referendum bill, responded to Barak's remarks by saying that "it seems Minister Barak is not just politically blind but also forgetful, as he himself voted in favor of the law at the beginning of the (Knesset's) term.
"Barak's sudden change of mind, and the undignified way he escaped from yesterday's vote prove that the Knesset did the right thing by not leaving the fate of Jerusalem and the Golan Heights in the hands of people like Minister Barak – but left the decision to the entire public."
PM: Law guarantees national agreement
The historic law passed its second and third reading on Monday, with a majority of 65 Knesset members. Thirty-three lawmakers voted against the bill, which states that any peace agreement including concession of territories like the Golan Heights and east Jerusalem would be subject to the public's approval.
The new law will make it more complicated to exchange Israeli land for settlements blocs as well.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the law's approval. His office said in a statement that "any peace agreement requires wide national agreement, and this law guarantees that. It reduces the differences and tensions among the people, and prevents a situation in which agreements are obtained through parliamentary maneuvers which do not reflect the public's desire."
Netanyahu added that "the Israeli public is involved, proficient and responsible, and I trust that when the time for a decision comes it will support a peace agreement which meets the State of Israel's national interests and security needs."
The prime minister said Tuesday during a visit to the Israel Aerospace Industries in Lod that "the public knows it will make the decision, and I trust the people of Israel – a smart and wise people." He stressed that "anyone who seeks a peace agreement with historic ramifications should not be fearful of presenting it to the public. This is the democratic and right thing to do."
Attila Somfalvi contributed to this report
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