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Why Bibi Wants a Referendum

He who gets to write the questions, wins the referendum.
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Photo Credit: Marc Israel Sellem/POOL/FLASH90

Here is a good example of why Americans are misled about Mideast issues. In today’s local paper, I came across a  story headlined “Israelis may vote on peace deal.” It began as follows:

JERUSALEM (AP) – Israel’s premier announced Monday he is fast-tracking legislation that would allow him to put any peace deal with the Palestinians to a national referendum – an apparent attempt to silence hard-liners in his party and coalition government. …

Netanyahu said Monday that a referendum is necessary to prevent a rift in Israeli society. Polls have suggested a majority of Israelis support the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, but many groups are vehemently opposed, including hard-liners among Israel’s West Bank settlers. [my emphasis]

The impression given is that although a majority of Israelis favor an agreement with the Palestinian Authority (PA), the PLO-controlled Palestinian ‘government’, to withdraw from most of Judea and Samaria and perhaps eastern Jerusalem, and turn them over to become a Palestinian state, the peace process is being stymied by “hard-liners.”

The truth does not remotely resemble this. A majority of Israelis know that the PA has little support from the residents of the areas that it controls and none at all in Gaza, where 40% of the Palestinian Arabs live. They also know that the security consequences of a withdrawal from the territories would be unacceptable, and that while the PLO is sincere about wanting to get Israel out of the territories, it is not sincere about making peace.

The poll results mentioned in the story are based on questions like this: “Would you favor the establishment of a peaceful Palestinian state alongside Israel?” Of course a majority of Israelis would agree! Who doesn’t want peace? But at the same time, most realize that under today’s circumstances, an Israeli withdrawal would lead to anything but a peaceful state. They have the continuing example of Gaza, in case they forget what a sovereign Palestinian state is like.

In addition, they know that the gaps between Israel and the PLO on such issues as refugees, Jerusalem, borders, etc. are as wide as ever — perhaps even wider than in 2000 or 2008, when an agreement could not be reached. They know that the PLO has preferred to get its way be manipulating the UN, the Europeans and the US, rather than in meaningful negotiations with Israel in which they might have to give something up. They know that the PLO has avoided talks for years by placing impossible preconditions on them. So they understand that talks are most likely only a way to pressure Israel to make concessions without much chance of success.

And they know that the PLO has sponsored terrorism against Jewish civilians consistently since its beginnings, and that terrorism generally increases when negotiations are taking place. They know that the PA never lets up on its incitement, or on its glorification of the most vicious mass murdering terrorists as heroes.

They know that many of the 118 prisoners that are about to be released as a good-will gesture to bring the Palestinians to the table have murdered Jews for political reasons, and that they will return home to hero’s welcomes. They will comprise a direct affront to the honor of Israel and the Jewish people, demonstrating that we are too weak to punish the murderers of our brothers, sisters and children.

Recent bad ideas, like Oslo and the Gaza withdrawal, were implemented without public approval. Oslo was dropped on Israelis after secret maneuvers by politicians who did not represent them, and after they elected a Prime Minister who opposed a Palestinian state (and who, even after Oslo, opposed withdrawing from much of the territories and opposed granting full sovereignty to the proposed Palestinian entity).

In the case of Gaza, Ariel Sharon held a referendum among members of his own Likud party, 65% of whom rejected his plan — which he put into effect anyway, even after saying that he would respect the views of party members!

If there were a referendum on any proposed agreement with the PA, these are the considerations that would be taken by ordinary Israelis who are not politicians, media personalities or academics. It is hard to imagine that an agreement like the ones that were rejected by the Arabs in 2000 and 2008 would stand a chance among the general public today.

So I don’t think Netanyahu needs a referendum to ‘silence hard-liners’. Rather, I think he wants it as more ammunition to prevent the US from railroading Israel into an agreement that would prove disastrous.

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About the Author: Vic Rosenthal created FresnoZionism.org to provide a forum for publishing and discussing issues about Israel and the Mideast conflict, especially where there is a local connection. Rosenthal believes that America’s interests are best served by supporting the democratic state of Israel, the front line in the struggle between Western civilization and radical Islam. The viewpoint is not intended to be liberal or conservative — just pro-Israel.


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7 Responses to “Why Bibi Wants a Referendum”

  1. Anonymous says:

    It must be a referendum, is no other way, not only that is the Israelis say no, the PA has to go out from the West Bank to Jordan, this was stollen from Jordan with the help of the British Imperium, now the British they don't have any excuse, they are responsible of the situation, they should pay for it.

  2. Mark L. Shane says:

    let the most violent of the prisoners be traded for Jonathan Pollard. Let the future(to be freed)Palis be shot if falling back into jihadi crimes, let Israel retake Gaza, Jude, Samaria, east Jerusalem, the Sinai, medina and mecca.Let there be peace in Iran so it does not need to be nuked(this week).How about finally relieving peres and netanyahoo into retirement. They have harmed enough (times).

  3. Yossi Klavan says:

    Ariel Sharon held a referendum in the Likud about the Disengagement. He wrote the questions, lost miserably, and then went ahead and did it anyway. Yitzchak Rabin didn't have a majority for the Olso deal, so he bought off 2 MKs — by making them ministers with cars. If Netanyahu wants the deal to happen, it will happen, regardless of what the majority wants.

  4. Bibi's looking at his retirement income situation now. He wants the $100,000 speaker's fees and a share of the $1,000,000 Nobel Prize. And for that, he's willing to sell his country.

  5. If any PM of Israel can do whatever he pleases (more or less), then other than the mitzvah-based obligation of living in EY (which can – theoretically – be fulfilled by living in Amman, Jordan), what's the reason for making Aliyah? Can't stop the gov-t politically, anyway…

  6. and mitzvah-based obligation is a huge one, I'm not trying to minimize that, in the slightest.

  7. Yossi Klavan says:

    Gregory: The more people who move to Israel and love the land — the harder it will be for a PM to get away with such behaviour. Had religious Jewry moved here in the early 1900s instead of staying in Europe, the country would be a very diffierent place.

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