Bill on Peace Deal Referendum Edges Closer to Becoming Basic Law

Knesset committee approves bill for second and third reading; bill would give near-constitutional status to a requirement that any Israeli decision to cede land must be put to referendum.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

A Knesset committee approved Wednesday the government-backed "referendum bill" for its second and third reading. The bill would enhance the status of existing legislation - which provides for a referendum over any future Israeli decision to cede sovereign territory in a peace deal - to a basic law.

The bill is meant to reinforce a law passed in 2010 that requires the government to obtain a two-thirds Knesset majority or public approval via referendum before yielding any sovereign Israeli territory in a peace deal. The exisiting law is regular legislation, whereas as a basic law, it would have semi-consitutional status.

The bill would not apply to the West Bank or Jewish settlements there, because that territory has not been annexed by Israel. It would apply, however, to territory in East Jerusalem or the Golan Heights, both of which were annexed.

The bill will be brought to the Knesset for its second and third readings in the second week of March as part of a package deal together with the so-called governance bill.

On first reading back in August, the referendum bill passed by a vote of 66 to 45. The third reading, due to take place in March, will be its final one.

MK Yariv Levin (Likud), who sponsored the proposed bill, said Wednesday, that the Knesset committee's approval was "another important step in ensuring the referendum becomes a basic law."

"The approval formally and technically acknowledges agreements that were reached long ago between coalition members," Levin said, adding that "consolidating the referendum bill as a basic law ... strengthens the trend of maintaining national unity and public cohesion behind any future decision."

"I am convinced that the people will not support handing over part of the homeland," he added.

A man skis during sunset on Mount Hermon in the Golan Heights in Israel, near the Syria border, Dec. 17, 2013.Credit: Reuters
A horse walks in the snow at the base of Mount Hermon in the Golan Heights in Israel, near the Syria border, Dec. 17, 2013.Credit: Reuters

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