Photo: Gil Yohanan
Naftali Bennett
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Tzipi Livni
Photo: Gil Yohanan

Bennett to referendum opponents: What are you afraid of?

Minutes after Tzipi Livni declares opposition to any referendum, Habayit Hayehudi chairman insists on promoting it as basic law. 'This can only be decided by the people,' he says

"A referendum is the way to prevent a rift. Issues like an agreement with the Palestinians can only be decided by the people. We'll support the State budget, but we'll demand to promote a Basic Referendum Bill," Minister Naftali Bennett announced on Monday in the Habayit Hayehudi faction meeting.


Bennett's statement, though a retracement of his previous ultimatum, brings into sharp relief the increasing divide within the coalition ahead of the resumption of the peace talks, announced on Friday.


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Bennett's espousal of a referendum for any agreement reached in Washington between the two sides, if indeed one is achieved, puts him at loggerheads with his fellow cabinet minister Hatnua Chairwoman Tzipi Livni, who vowed to resist a referendum on any forum only several minutes before Bennett's statement was made.


In his faction's meeting, Bennett further said that Israel will not negotiate the 1967 line, but failed to elaborate. "Building across Israel will continue because withdrawal causes terror," he said.


"We've raised the promotion of the referendum basic law as a condition so that the issue will not be brushed aside, so that it will happen now. We remember how the Oslo Accords was passed and the (Gaza) Pullout.


"I turn to the referendum opponents: What are you afraid of? Why not let the people decide?"


On the other side of the fence, in the Hatnua faction meeting, Livni said: "Our position is clear. We've resisted the referendum, and we'll resist it on any possible forum. The negotiations have been initiated under the best possible conditions for Israel. We'll act with the utmost responsibility."


Labor Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich, whose party may replace Bennett's should the latter pull out of the coalition, also commented on the issue: "This proposal aims to torpedo the peace process even before it starts.


"This is a highly selective proposal. If Bennett and the Habayit Hayehudi believe that democratic elections are not enough, and they don’t recognize sovereign authority, I find it difficult to understand why they don't demand a referendum on the budget and the Arrangements Law, as well."


Netanyahu in favor, Lapid undecided

The referendum issue was brought up on Sunday's weekly cabinet meeting by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who voiced his support for putting a peace agreement to the popular vote.


Later, Bennett issued an ultimatum saying that his party would not support the State Budget unless the government passed a bill requiring a referendum on any peace agreement in which Israel relinquishes land.


Habayit Hayehudi lawmakers are demanding that the Basic Referendum Bill be passed in a first reading as soon as possible, noting that it appears in the coalition agreements with the ruling Likud-Beiteinu faction.


Though the Yesh Atid party objects to a Basic Referendum bill, party leader and Finance Minister Yair Lapid has yet to make a clear stance and his faction is scheduled to convene soon to determine its position.


Meanwhile, coalition officials are working on a way to start voting on the Referendum Bill as soon as possible and hope to call an emergency meeting of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation as soon as Monday.


But the issue is not limited to Israel. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told Jordanian newspaper Al Rai that "any agreement reached with the Israelis will be brought to a referendum."



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פרסום ראשון: 07.22.13, 18:22
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