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Tags: Israel | withdrawal | bill | referendum

Israel Crafts Withdrawal Vote Referendum Bill

Wednesday, 09 December 2009 10:28 AM EST

The Knesset voted Wednesday afternoon in favor of continuing legislation on the Golan Heights and Jerusalem Referendum Bill, by an overwhelming majority of 68 to 22, with one abstention.

The referendum bill stipulates that any withdrawal from east Jerusalem, the Golan or another area which under Israeli sovereignty would first have to be approved by the majority of the Israeli public.

The vote crossed coalition-opposition lines, with over one-third of Kadima MKs supporting the bill, but with the majority of Labor ministers conspicuously absent from the vote.

Despite voicing reservations shortly before the vote, Labor party chairman Ehud Barak voted in favor of the controversial bill.

"The bill isn't necessary for two reasons: first, it imposes additional constraints on the prime minister and those responsible for negotiations with Syria, which are important to Israel," he told the Knesset plenum during a discussion on the proposed law. "A law like this also gives a bad impression to the world, as though Israel does not want peace."

The second reason, continued Barak, is that "a referendum is a complicated constitutional matter, which stands to block progress."

Opposition and Kadima leader Tzipi Livni voted against the bill, saying that the people of Israel could not make decisions in place of the government they themselves had elected.

The bill passed its first reading during the previous Knesset, and was supposed to be submitted for its second and third readings on the first day of the winter session of the last Knesset, but the elections intervened.

When the Knesset reconvened in the spring, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation voted to revive the bill, but the bill's progress was blocked when Intelligence Agencies Minister Dan Meridor appealed the ministerial committee's previous decision to support the legislation.

Meridor complained that the law would tie the hands of the government in future peace negotiations, saying in the appeal that the bill would "add a harmful and unnecessary burden to the State of Israel, which will be seen as mounting obstacles against any possible peace agreement."

On Tuesday evening, the committee ruled by a vote of 5-2 to reject Meridor's appeal, enabling the bill to return to the Knesset floor for a vote to renew the legislative process and continue with preparations for its second and third readings.

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Wednesday, 09 December 2009 10:28 AM
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