Netanyahu Fast-Tracks Referendum Bill

YERUSHALAYIM -

The Israeli government has put a bill requiring a national referendum for a peace treaty with the Palestinians on a fast track, to be enacted into law if possible before the Knesset adjourns for the summer.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s office distributed a copy of the legislation to ministers for review on Thursday, ahead of a ministerial vote to approve on Sunday and a first reading in the Knesset on Wednesday.

The PMO is even looking into the possibility of scheduling second and third (final) readings on the same day so that it could become law next week, a senior government source told The Jerusalem Post.

The unusual speed is attributed to Economy Minister Naftali Bennett’s threat earlier in the week that his Jewish Home party would not vote for the government’s budget, which comes to a vote Monday, if no progress is made on the referendum bill. Failure to pass a budget by August 1 would automatically trigger new elections.

The PMO’s introduction to the bill gave a loftier tone to the urgency of the measure: “In light of significant diplomatic developments leading to the opening of negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, the government sees an importance and urgency, together with talks, to pass a basic law requiring a referendum in the case of an agreement or government decision requiring the concession of law, judiciary and management of territory in the State of Israel.”

The bill calls for a law passed in 2010 requiring a referendum after the government signs any treaty conceding sovereign Israeli land to be turned into a basic law, and also provides that a majority of 61 MKs will be needed to cancel or change the law.