Debate on Peace Referendum


A debate has opened on whether a national referendum will be required in the event of a peace agreement that would cede land to the Palestinians, The Jerusalem Post reported on Monday.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has come out in favor of a law proposed by coalition chairman Yariv Levin (Likud-Beiteinu) which calls for a referendum on any treaty that includes giving up land currently under Israeli sovereignty. Land swaps in Yehudah and Shomron would not be covered by such a law.

“I support and respect the process, because if we reach a diplomatic agreement, it can’t pass with a happenstance majority [in the Knesset],” Netanyahu said at a Likud faction meeting.

Economics and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) has also gotten behind it, while Justice Minister and chief negotiator with the Palestinians Tzipi Livni took a stand on Sunday against it.

Bennett said, “We want to build a bridge so that the nation isn’t torn apart if there are peace talks.”

Livni added that she believes the public will support a peace treaty, and if not, it can vote in a new government. “I don’t fear the public, but it’s [the government’s] job to make decisions,” she stated.

She was in line with Opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich (Labor), who argued that in a representative democracy the citizens vote for parties they support, which are supposed to make decisions.

“There is not a hint of democracy behind the idea of a referendum specifically about a diplomatic treaty,” she said. “The opposite is true. The selectiveness [in referendum topics] speaks for itself.”

Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Avigdor Lieberman are not opposed.

However, in a Likud-Beiteinu meeting Lieberman said “we are unenthusiastic about a referendum law. A government must rule and not transfer everything to the people to decide.”