New Referendum Law Passed in Israel
Law would call for land given to be subject to referendum.
According to legislation passed by the Israeli parliament late last night, any peace deal involving Israel’s withdrawal from annexed land in East Jerusalem or the Golan Heights must go to referendum, Haaretz reported.
Land potentially given to the Palestinians in exchange for including some West Bank settlements within Israel when borders are drawn would also be subject to a referendum.
The West Bank, however, which Israel has occupied for the past 43 years, is not covered by the legislation which passed by 65 votes to 33.
The bill, put forth by the rightwing Likud party and endorsed by Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, takes immediate effect. It arrives amid stalled peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, criticized the new referendum law. "The Israeli leadership, yet again, is making a mockery of international law, which is not subject to the whims of Israeli public opinion," he said. "Under international law there is a clear and absolute obligation on Israel to withdraw not only from East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, but from all of the territories that it has occupied since 1967. Ending the occupation of our land is not and cannot be dependent on any sort of referendum."
Defense Minister Ehud Barak also warned Tuesday that the new law could potentially be used by Israel's enemies as proof that it is against advancing the Middle East peace process.
"It's not a good law, certainly not at this point in time," said Barak. "I am just not sure it is needed right now. Israel's enemies are likely to use it to claim that we are against peace and handcuffing ourselves to prevent any progress in the peace process."