Israeli groups seeks referendum on disputed territories
'Decision 50', led by prominent figures in Israel's self-proclaimed peace camp has urged PM Netanyahu to call a nationwide referendum on whether Israel should withdraw from disputed territories; activists claim control over territories brings Israel closer to its end.
The group launched the campaign ahead of the 50th anniversary next year of the 1967 Six-Day War, in which Israel captured swaths of additional territory including the West Bank, east Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and the Gaza Strip.
The Palestinians say they seek to establish an independent state in the territories, excluding the Golan Heights. However, many Israelis are apprehensive about Palestinian territorial ambitions which they fear extend all the way to the Mediterranean. With the lack of trust on both sides, sporadic peace talks over two decades have proved futile.
The Israeli group, calling itself "Decision at 50," is led by prominent figures in Israel's so-called peace camp, which believes an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank is essential for the country's survival.
They believe that the establishment of a Palestinian state will ensure Israel's future as a democracy with a solid Jewish majority.
The alternative, they claim, is a "binational" state in which Israel either risks losing its Jewish majority or ruling over millions of disenfranchised Palestinians.
By contrast, many Israeli officials believe that the country’s continued control over the areas is paramount for its security and therefore its physical survival.
The group's founders include Ami Ayalon, a former head of the Shin Bet internal security agency, Amram Mitzna, a retired general, and Gilead Sher, who was a peace negotiator under former Prime Minister Ehud Barak.
The group said it sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asking to hold the referendum. Netanyahu himself has endorsed the idea of a Palestinian state. But peace efforts have remained frozen throughout most of his seven-year tenure amid wide gaps with the Palestinians over all major issues.
"Every day in which our control over the Palestinian territories persists brings us closer to the end of Israel as the democratic state of the Jewish people," Ayalon said. "Netanyahu sees the disaster ahead, but he is not courageous enough to act." Netanyahu's office declined comment.