Syria said Tuesday the Knesset decision to approve a bill that would require a referendum before any Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights or east Jerusalem constitutes contempt of international law.
A Syrian Foreign Ministry source responded to the bill, saying to the official Syrian news agency SANA, "The (Knesset) decision amounts to contempt of international law and the position and desire of the entire international community, which confirmed in the past and still maintains that east Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan Heights are occupied Arab territory."
The same Syrian source added that the bill shows Israel rejects demands for peace, as well as UN resolutions 242 and 338 and the principle of land for peace. He said the decision was "an illegitimate Israeli step which would not change the fact that the Golan is occupied Syrian land."
"This is a fact which is not open to negotiation," he said. "The return of the entire Golan is the basis for peace." He added that Syria sees this step as being directed towards those who still imagine Israel seeks peace.
Domestic criticismCriticism against the law came from inside Israel too – from within the coalition. On the morning after the historic vote, where he was not present, Defense Minister Ehud Barak slammed the referendum bill. Speaking during a conference of regional council heads in the south, Barak – who voted in favor of promoting the law just a year ago – said the law could be used by critics of Israel who can claim "the State is binding itself."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, said the law was "the democratic and the right thing to do." Netanyahu, who already issued a statement praising the passage of the bill, said during a visit to the Israel Aerospace Industries in Lod, "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."
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 require the support of the majority of Israeli citizens plus 60 Knesset members.
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