Israel’s Referendum Law: Protecting Democracy

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With the near-nonexistent Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic process at a standstill, despite reports last week about a U.S.-Israeli deal (involving 20 warplanes) aimed at enticing the Palestinians back to the table, this week Israel’s Knesset passed a major law affecting prospective future deal-making with the Palestinians or Syria.

The law requires either a Knesset two-thirds majority or a national referendum to approve any peace deal involving the ceding of land that is part of sovereign Israel. Since a two-thirds Knesset majority in such a situation is well-nigh impossible, the legislation is already being called the “referendum law.”

The law in effect applies to three categories of land. Two of them—East Jerusalem (formally annexed to Israel in 1967 in the wake of the Six Day War) and any parts of pre-1967 Israel that might be used in a swap for parts of the West Bank—pertain to possible future deals with the Palestinians. The third—the Golan Heights (captured from Syria in the 1967 war, with Israeli law extended to it in 1981)—pertains to possible future deals with Syria.

The West Bank itself, to which Israel has never applied sovereignty, is not affected by the law.

The legislation passed by a wide 65-33 margin. It was overwhelmingly supported by right-leaning parties in the government coalition including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud, the large Yisrael Beiteinu faction of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, and the religious Shas Party.

But the referendum law also picked up a few yea votes (complemented by significant non-votes of absent MKs) from Labor, the left-of-center member of the coalition, and Kadima, the large left-of-center opposition party. The nay votes came from other Labor and Kadima MKs, the small far-Left Meretz faction, and the Arab parties.

The usual crowd lost no time denouncing the legislation. Palestinian Authority chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said that “the Israeli leadership, yet again, is making a mockery of international law. Ending the occupation of our land is not and cannot be dependent on any sort of referendum.” The Syrian Foreign Ministry used similar language and said the law “shows the truth to anyone who still holds the fantasy that Israel is interested in peace.”

Within Israel, the far-left Peace Now organization said it would appeal the law to the Supreme Court. Much closer to the mainstream, Defense Minister Ehud Barak of Labor—who voted in favor of the law’s first reading last year and this time absented himself from the vote—said he was “just not sure it is needed right now. Israel’s enemies are likely to use it to claim we are against peace and handcuffing ourselves to prevent any progress….”

In defending the law, Netanyahu’s office stated that “any peace agreement requires wide national agreement, and this law guarantees that. It…prevents a situation in which agreements are obtained through parliamentary maneuvers which do not reflect the people’s desire.”

It was an allusion to the infamous 1995 Oslo II vote, in which the then-dominant Labor-left bloc ensured passage only by bribing two purportedly right-wing MKs with cabinet seats and other perks.

Yet Netanyahu, in a speech of his own on Tuesday, echoed Barak’s concern about perceptions of Israel, stating: “I have faith in the Israeli people. I think that Israel is a wise, intelligent nation, and I’m convinced that if we present an agreement, it will pass.”

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  • SHmuelHaLevi

    The Law is the tip of an iceberg that the distorting media has been making top efforts to conceal. Yet…
    In all cases when THE PEOPLE defeats the unJews here, the later run to their peons in the so called "supreme court". In Israel the courtiers, aka in normal States as Judges, are self elected and almost invariably hail from the far unJewish core.
    I hope they do not err again as the people has been sending very clear messages to the usurpers from Oslo. Yet the false peace industry barons are desperate and they control all armed sectors.
    One never knows with that element.
    They have already used armed forces to murder Jews since the Altalena times and to effect Pogroms as in Gush Katif, Amona, etc, so I would not be surprised if they at least attempt that again. That would be a fatal error on their part.
    In fact everyone everywhere should start threading very, very carefully.

  • Andres de Alamaya

    Israel has three major problems – 1. It is surrounded by hordes of Muslims who will never rest until they see Israel's total destruction. 2. It has within its midst and in government both Arab enemies and hemorrhaging-heart liberal Jews who would give away their freedom for a phony promise of peace and 3. It has Democracy, the beautiful concept that brings all reason to a halt. Its problems will never cease until it faces realities and acts on them.

    • sebyandrew

      It is early and maybe it's me.

      " It has Democracy, the beautiful concept that brings all reason to a halt."

      Cd. you elaborate on/clarify this 3rd point Andres?

      We shd. be hearing the farting of trolls soon BTW.

      • ziontruth

        “3. It has Democracy, the beautiful concept that brings all reason to a halt.”

        Maybe, but there’s no better alternative until HaShem sends us an exceptional leader (soon, amen).

  • Lee Poteet

    In short, it is in exactly the same position as the United States.

  • http://wwwtwosetsofbooks.blogspot.com/ patti

    I am amazed by who can be bought…

    http://wwwtwosetsofbooks.blogspot.com/2010/11/mee

  • http://gentwarrior.blogspot.com James Biga

    My post on this from yesterday http://gentwarrior.blogspot.com/2010/11/let-free-

  • Claus Christensen

    I applaud the initiative. However, there is little sense in being willing to hold on to this land if there is no will to ensure the survival of Israel as a whole. Demographics and democracy is a deadly cocktail as long as millions of arabs are allowed to live in Israel. Most, if not all, jews have been killed or expelled from the arab world since WWII and Israel cannot allow the national suicide that is demographic muslim warfare. The lasting solution is to stand behind the words of Kahane: they must go! Gaza, Judea, Samaria and the rest of Israel should be freed from the arabs permanently. There is no sense in protecting ones border if the enemy is already within the country in the millions. This is true for the West as a whole, true for my country of Denmark and this is true for Israel. Co-existence is a utopian dream, appeasement is treason – they must go.

    • danny bonca

      I agree they must go-The Knesset got that law through fast. They at last made a good
      law (smart) -no land for terrorism period

  • http://mypage.direct.ca/l/lbouchar/ SeaMystic

    There is only one thing left for Israel and any other Democracy, declare total War on Islam, or through time our children will be enslaved by this pestilence called Islam.

    check: http://www.petitiononline.com/MYSTIC/petition.htm

  • CervenaVrana

    "The West Bank itself, to which Israel has never applied sovereignty, is not affected by the law." This is insanity. The West Bank is the very heart of Israel. Why is the West Bank not affected by this law?

  • Claus Christensen

    If the Israeli establishment haven't learned from the insanity of giving away Gaza to the muslims they are doomed to fail. Judea and Samaria IS Israel and the only problem is the constant births of arabs on its soil. The muslims got 'Jordan' handed to them and this is where it should end. Throw them out of the so-called West Bank and keep defending the territory at all costs. Learn from Churchill: "we will fight them on the beaches… we will fight them with growing confidence in the air, we will NEVER surrender!"
    The muslims are among the last of the nazi collaborators from WWII who have not been taught a proper lesson.

  • AL__