As if the settlement movement hasn't imposed enough moral, political, social, and material costs on us, now its leaders want to sacrifice the state's democracy. This doesn't refer to the minority threatening "a war between brothers" and telling soldiers to refuse orders to evacuate settlements. Those endangering democracy are the ones who are called "moderate" and who are only asking for "the people to decide" and swear they will obey what ever the majority rules. Those demanding a referendum "to keep the people together" - whether out of hope of burying the disengagement or expecting it to take off - are gambling with the entire future of national democracy.
A referendum law will open Pandora's Box. Why should only the settlers of Gaza and the northern West Bank area get a referendum? Why not a referendum on dismantling the outposts? Aren't they Jews who will be uprooted from their homes?
Who will guarantee that a government made of the right and ultra-Orthodox won't use the new law to demand, for example, public support for new emergency regulations for "the war on terror?" Who will promise that a Netanyahu-Lieberman-Benizri government won't "go to the people" behind the back of the Knesset and High Court, to authorize it to limit freedom of speech, assembly, and organization, for that purpose? Is anyone ready to gamble that the majority would vote against such a request?
Does Zevulun Orlev, who so much wants to remain a minister, take into account the referendum of the sort he's proposing will serve as a precedent for taking other issues away from the government? A minority group like the religious nationalists owes its important achievements in matters of religion to the democratic system of a representative parliament.
If the broader public must be the authorized body to decide on whether a few hundred families should move from the Diaspora in Gaza to the homeland, why shouldn't the masses of Israeli households be invited to decide on matters that affect tens of thousands of households?
Who will guarantee to the NRP that a Barak-Lapid-Beilin government won't ask the people if they are in favor of separation of religion and state, civil marriage, or public transportation on the Sabbath? Is there any doubt about the likely results of such a referendum?
One might nonetheless ask what's so bad about a popular-democratic procedure that might lessen the pain of uprooting the first of the "Eretz Yisrael" settlements, dulling the dispute between those in favor of the disengagement plan and those opposed? Okay. It is well known that the devil is in the details of formulating the question posed in a referendum. It's not enough for the question to be along the tines of "are you for or against the evacuation of the settlements in Gaza and the northern West Bank?"
For the referendum to be professional and fair, here are some proposals for questions:
Are you for or against your son or daughter or grandson or granddaughter spending their military service accompanying the children of Netzarim to music lessons?
Are you ready to pay between NIS 1,000-2,000 a year to protect 1,000-2,000 residents of Gush Katif?
Are you for or against a Jewish majority in Israel?
Are you for or against controlling or annexing 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza?
Are you for or against breaking a promise to President Bush to evacuate Gaza and dismantle the outposts and harming U.S.-Israel relations?
Are you for or against helping Israeli families in Gaza who want to come back to Israel?
Spokesmen for democracy from the NRP and those ostensibly worried about the unity of the nation are insisting on a referendum. Please. To save time for the one that follows, they certainly won't mind if at the same time the people are asked some other questions that no doubt will keep us occupied on the day after the disengagement.
Are you for or against disengagement and other steps, in coordination with the Palestinian Authority?
If the PA takes control over Gaza, are you for or against renewing negotiations with the Palestinians?
And last, but not least, if the disengagement works out fine, are you for or against evacuating more settlements in the West Bank?
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