The Lame Duck That Laid a Golden Egg - Part II

By the winter of 2000, the peace train was moving on the Syrian track at a reckless pace and referendum-mania was in full swing. The legal implications, logistics, and various questions concerning a plebiscite were being seriously explored by various committees and experts.

Ellen W. Horowitz

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Arutz 7
By the winter of 2000, the peace train was moving on the Syrian track at a reckless pace and referendum-mania was in full swing. The legal implications, logistics, and various questions concerning a plebiscite were being seriously explored by various committees and experts. This is an important point for those who claim that implementing a referendum on disengagement from Gaza would be too complex to institute at this point in the game.

In an attempt to bolster then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak, it seems America - that democratic powerhouse that preaches freedom, but has difficulty accepting Israeli sovereignty - interfered big-time in Israel's referendum endeavors. The US embassy began meeting with Israeli Arab leaders in an effort to get them to persuade their constituents to support Barak and vote "yes" to a withdrawal from the Golan. America even went as far as to provide funds for an Arab voter mobilization drive. The allegations, which were widely reported in the Israeli media and which Uzi Landau called "an unprecedented and blatant interference by the embassy of the United States in Israel's internal affairs," were never denied by the United States.

But by March 2000, another Knesset vote, this time sponsored by the Likud opposition, would take the wind out of Barak's sails. The "special majority" Golan bill required that a vote on withdrawal from the Golan Heights would have to be passed by a majority of all registered voters, and not just a simple majority (that means that anybody who did not take part in the referendum would count as a "no" vote). The legislation passed the preliminary reading by a margin of 60 -53 and was supported by some members of Barak's coalition, including the Shas party.

"We don't want to destroy the coalition," Shas cabinet minister Shlomo Benizri said in a radio interview. "We just wanted to vote as we believe on the referendum. It wasn't against the prime minister, it was pro the Golan." An incredible, yet positive, position taken by the ever-pliable religious party, which treats the halacha regarding the Land of Israel as if it were a wad of silly putty.

Barak was furious.

In April of 2000, the run-away train on the Syrian track had ground to an abrupt halt with the failure of the Clinton-Assad Geneva Summit. Two and a half months later, the Syrian president was dead.

An undeterred President Clinton refocused his efforts, and by July, he had Barak and Yasser Arafat jesting with and poking each other to determine who would enter the door at Camp David first. It was a disgusting display of foolish behavior by the leader of our nation and it must have opened the doorway to Hell. By October 2000, Arafat launched a full-blown terror war against the citizens of Israel.

Ehud Barak resigned as prime minister in December 2000 against a backdrop of increased bloodletting and a rapidly deteriorating security situation.

It's an astounding sequence of events. A combination of nationalistic efforts on the part of the legislature and public, as well as a hefty dose of Divine intervention, managed to derail one dangerous track, while human error, warped ideology and foreign interference exacerbated another. I don't think we're meant to fully understand it, but we could use some guidance as to where we should go from here.

A good majority of this country believes that Ariel Sharon is corrupt. An admittedly left-wing media makes it virtually impossible for us to decipher truth from falsehood, or to accurately gauge public opinion and feeling. It appears that our public servants are more interested in their Knesset perks and positions than they are in fulfilling their obligations. Israel's democracy is in a sorry state, and the land and people of Israel are in danger.

A referendum is democratic, but participating in a democratic process in and of itself does not guarantee a just and moral outcome. Nor will a plebiscite prevent a rift or rid us of our existential threats. It will, however, let the public. as well as the government. know what's honestly in the hearts of the people. It could clarify where this country stands and the direction in which we are headed. And it would, hopefully, provide the public with a way of calling to order a leadership and system gone mad.

As Ze'ev Segal wrote in Haaretz, "Introducing referendums would represent a constitutional revolution in the mode of government by limiting the Knesset's supremacy in determining certain issues. Transferring certain decisions to the people cannot be deemed detrimental to the Knesset since the people, not the Knesset, is sovereign in a democratic state. Most democratic countries hold referendums...."

Establishing a referendum as a precedent when determining issues involving the territorial integrity of the Land of Israel is not a comfortable solution for a G-d-fearing Jew. But it does give us a card to play with and a possible safety valve through these very dark times. As human beings with conscience, regardless of the outcome of a vote, we always reserve the right to protest. Under the circumstances, the public's demand for either a referendum or new elections, in combination with vigorous protest and non-violent resistance, is probably the closest to a just, moral and bloodless approach that we can employ in this very troubled world of ours.

It's as if G-d was saying, "My children, these are your tools. You created them with the gifts and skills that I granted you. They're limited, imperfect and in gross disrepair - but it's what you got. Now work with them, and leave the rest up to Me."