Livni: Netanyahu Is Too Weak to Give Up Land for Peace

Opposition leader says Kadima will vote against Likud bill conditioning any retreat from territories upon the holding of a popular referendum.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is attempting to pass on the decision of whether or not to relinquish land as part of a future peace deal since he is too weak to make that decision himself, opposition leader Tzipi Livni said on Monday.

Livni Netanyahu- AP- Feb 22, 2009

The Knesset is expected to pass into law on Monday a bill conditioning any retreat from territories Israel considers to be under its sovereignty upon the holding of a popular referendum.

Referring to the upcoming vote, Livni said that her party, Kadima, would vote against the bill, saying that the issue at hand was essential, one which has "nothing to do with who wants or doesn't want to give up portions of Israel."

"Those are the kind of decisions taken by a leadership which understands the gravity of the issues at hand, from all sides," Livni said, adding she felt Netanyahu was "a weak prime minister" who was comfortable with passing on responsibility.

The Kadima leader added that any decision of the kind the bill discussed "would be tied to considerations that are not always made public, and then the public is expected to understand everything."

"It has nothing to do with right-wing or left-wing but on decision making in a democracy, where there is only one referendum and that's a general election," Livni said, adding that the premier "should say the same things both before and after those elections."

The Prime Minister's Office issued a response against criticism hurled at the bill, saying that "a referendum would prevent an irresponsible agreement, as well as ratifying any agreement that would meet Israel's national interests with a strong public backing."

The bill, proposed by House Committee chairman Yariv Levin (Likud ), sets downs the rules for such a referendum, which would be required in the case of an Israeli pullback from the Golan Heights or East Jerusalem, though not in the West Bank, which has not been annexed to Israel. It comes as an amendment to the existing referendums law. The Knesset will begin debating the bill in the afternoon, and the deliberations are expected to last until late evening.

"This is a bill of the utmost national importance for retaining the unity of the people," said MK Levin.

"The bill expresses the need to ensure that any fateful, irreversible decision on giving up parts of the homeland on which the state's sovereignty has been enacted, will no longer be done through wheeling and dealing and recruiting parliamentary support through other issues, as has happened sadly in the past."