Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that if a peace agreement is reached with the Palestinians, it would have to receive approval through a national referendum.
Netanyahu said Israel is entering the talks honestly, with the hope that they will be conducted in a responsible and realistic way, and, at least in the early stages, with discretion.
He added that the negotiations are not going to be easy, but emphasized that renewing the political process is a vital Israeli interest. He said Israel would have to strike a balance between preventing the creation of a binational state and the creation of yet another terrorist state under the influence of Iran.
Netanyahu pointed out that Israel’s negotiations partners must also offer concessions that would allow the Jewish state to maintain its security and national interests.
Several government ministers, including those from Netanyahu’s own Likud-Beiteinu faction have expressed their objection to the release of Palestinian terrorist from prison as part of the renewing negotiations.
Minister Israel Katz from Likud said that while he is pleased with the renewed talks, he would vote against releasing murderers, once the issue is brought up to a cabinet vote. Katz added that he also objects to the creation of a Palestinian state. Still, Katz sees the reopening of talks as a strategic achievement for Israel, which would afford it a better maneuvering ability.
Minister Uri Ariel of Jewish Home said he could not figure out how the Americans are demanding that Israel release murderers, while insisting on keeping Jonathan Pollard imprisoned.
Despite promises similar to Netanyahu’s, Israel has never had a referendum on any issue whatsoever. Indeed, the most recent episode of uprooting thousands of Jews from their homes in Gaza was accompanied by a campaign of deception on the part of then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon over the issue of a referendum.
Initially, there was a consensus, at least on the right, that a major decision like the uprooting of an entire Jewish enclave would certainly have to go through a referendum. This seemed even more necessary after Sharon had been unable to receive approval from the majority in the Knesset for the move. In February, 2005, the Gush Katif decision was passed by a vote of 59 to 40, with 4 abstentions, not a resounding support for such a move.
Sharon refused to take the law to a national referendum, but did present it to the Likud membership for a party-wide vote. There Sharon’s proposition suffered a humiliating defeat, 59.5 to 39.7 percent, which prompted his desertion from his own party and the creation of the Kadima party.
Netanyahu, however, will not have Sharon’s wiggle room once a treaty is signed. A law passed by the Knesset in 2010 requires that any political deal that would require a retreat from disputed territories would have to be approved by a nation-wide referendum.
It’s getting interesting.