The Referendum law became one step closer to becoming a Basic Law Wednesday, after it was approved by the Knesset House Committee for a second and third reading. The law is expected to be voted upon in a Knesset session along with the Equal Burden of Service law in the second week of March.
The existing Referendum law requires decisions to give away land to be subject to a Knesset vote. While the law does not apply to Judea and Samaria, it does apply to other crucial areas discussed in international negotiations, including parts of Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. Those areas will not be relinquished unless a majority - 61 MKs or more - approve via a national referendum vote. Nationalist MKs hope the law will also serve as a template for a future bill requiring a vote on territorial concessions in Judea and Samaria.
MK Yariv Levin (Likud) requested in Wednesday's session to upgrade the Referendum law to a Basic Law, in light of the law's importance for maintaining the integrity of Israel's borders and "strengthening unity within the nation" while talks continue with the PA.
Levin emphasized, moreover, that the move to strengthen the law was part of the conditions formed with the current coalition after previous elections. The Knesset bill essentially confirms those agreements formally, Levin maintained, but the issue is not a new one.
"Anchoring the Referendum Law as a Basic Law is the continuation of the law approved during the previous term, and reinforces the trend of maintaining national unity and cohesion of the Israeli public behind every decision in Israel's future," Levin stated at the session. "I am convinced that the people will not let their own hands be responsible for relinquishing parts of our homeland [to the PA]."
The bill passed the House Committee by a landslide, with five for and two against.
One of the opponents was Meretz Chairman Zahava Gal-On, who used the opportunity to criticize the current coalition government.
"The Knesset is obligated to maintaining Israel's honor and status, not only in regard to the bi-annual budget or the Economic Arrangements Law but also significant political decisions," Gal-On fired. "The approval of the Referendum bill, which [Yair] Lapid and [Naftali] Bennett are trying to pass through the system, changes the rules and places the responsibility for legislation from the legislative body itself to the hands of the people."
"Whoever requests to approve the Referendum Law torpedoes a future peace agreement," Gal-On declared. "It hurts the status of the Knesset and the sovereign authority of the representatives of the Israeli government."