A national referendum will have to be held before any part of the Golan Heights or eastern Jerusalem is given away, according to a bill that has now passed a significant hurdle.
The Knesset House and Law Committees, sitting in a joint session, voted to approve the bill, meaning that it can be raised in the Knesset for its final readings. If it passes these, it becomes law.
The joint committee passed the bill by a 7-2 vote, despite the government’s opposition as manifest in its rejection of the proposal in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation.
Many Knesset Members were thrilled with the results. Likud MK Yariv Levine, the driving force behind the proposal, said, “This law has supreme national importance in preserving national unity, and will obligate every Israeli government to reach an agreement that is acceptable to the majority of the nation.”
MK Carmel Shama, also of the Likud, said that today is a “holiday” for the Golan, while MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union), a member of the joint committee, said, “We will soon bring the bill to the Knesset for its final vote, and I have no doubt that it will pass by a wide majority. The voters’ desire not to have sovereign territories of the country ceded without asking the populace first, will become law.”
“This bill effectively puts an end to the hallucinations of those who hope to give away the Golan or divide Jerusalem in exchange for empty promises,” Eldad added.
Voices of opposition were predictably heard from the left. MK Chaim Oron (Meretz) said that the bill is an attempt to sabotage peace efforts. MK Shlomo Mola (Kadima) took a political jab at the Likud in saying that the bill shows that the ruling party does not trust its leader, Binyamin Netanyahu, not to make a deal with Syria involving a withdrawal from the Golan.
As of now, the government is permitted to cede sovereign territory only if a majority of the Knesset – at least 61 MKs – approves. The new bill does not apply to Judea, Samaria, and the Jordan Valley, and would not have applied to Gaza, as these areas were never annexed to Israel and were/are still run under military law.
Sammy Bar-Lev, head of the Golan Regional Council, noted that Netanyahu has voted for this law in the past more than once, “and there is therefore no reason why this critically important law should not pass in the Knesset.
“Both the Golan and Jerusalem are sovereign areas of the State of Israel,” Bar-Lev said, “and it is inconceivable that the Golan, and all the more so Jerusalem, should be given away without the consent of a national majority.”