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Law Requiring Referendum for Land Concessions Passes

Law does not directly apply to Judea and Samaria, but could impact 'land swap' proposals.
By Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 3/12/2014, 8:02 PM

The Knesset
The Knesset
Flash 90

The controversial Referendum Law passed its second and third Knesset readings Wednesday night, making it part of Israel's Basic Law. 

Both readings passed by a landslide, with 68 for and none against. The Opposition continued to boycott the Knesset readings and did not participate in the vote. 

The law was a government bill combining independent proposals from MKs Yariv Levin (Likud), Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home), and Orit Struk (Jewish Home). The Knesset's Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee combined the bills to the current Referendum Law proposal, then presented it for the Knesset vote. 

Until now, the existing Referendum law required decisions to give away land to be subject to a Knesset vote - now, a nationwide referendum will be required to cede territory, and even the High Court will be unable to overturn the decision. 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.

Despite not applying directly to Judea and Samaria, the law would impact on any future "land swaps" with the PA, in which Israeli-Arab towns elsewhere in Israel would be swapped for Jewish "settlement blocs" in Judea-Samaria - a proposal floated by several senior government officials.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the Knesset, "I support this bill and want it to pass for the simple reason that a decision in such an arrangement [land swaps - ed.] must be accepted by the people." 

"When it comes to making such a crucial decision, when the moment arrives, you must go to the people," Netanyahu noted. "The decision we make today is history and we should be proud that this coalition is making it. We now decide to give people the ability to decide."

Deputy Foreign Minister Ze'ev Elkin (Likud), stated, "as one of the initiators of the Referendum law during the previous [Knesset] term, I'm glad we have anchored this Law as a Basic Law.” 

The Knesset can’t make more ‘Mitsubishi’ agreements to give away our land,” he continued, referring to the Oslo Accords. “Politics and Israeli law is another wall we can build to protect the Land of Israel If, God forbid, anyone would think to cede our homeland.” 

Coalition Chairman MK Yariv Levin called the vote “historic.” 

"Tonight we made history,” Levin enthused. “We passed  a new Basic Law for the first time in many years, and we determined that the land of Israel will not be sold.” 

“The Law may be called 'referendum law, but is, in fact worthy to be named ‘the law of national unity,’” he added. 

"We donated today an important contribution to the unity of the people and promised that a fateful decision, and irreversible question of giving up parts of the homeland, will not do in the way of political deals and buying votes,” he continued. "I firmly believe to our full right to the entire Land of Israel, and I am convinced that the citizens of Israel will not let them harm our sovereignty over our country. "

MK Orit Struk noted that the Referendum Law has been a long time in coming.

"I have no doubt that [tonight’s] rocket barrages on southern Israel could have been avoided if this important law went through the Knesset before the Disengagement,” Struk noted. "I want to emphasize: I believe that the Land of Israel belongs to the people of Israel throughout the generations, those who were and those who are. “

“The Divine promise that the Land of Israel belongs to the people of Israel is eternal - and therefore, our generation does not have the authority to give up any part of the land,” she continued. "The purpose of law is to serve as a third and final confidence after the government and the Knesset will decide whether these forbid giving up part of the Land of Israel. Note that the law does not remove the responsibility from the shoulders of the government and the Knesset."

Jewish Home hailed the Basic Law as a way to discourage “political opportunism” and that “today is a holiday for Jewish communities and for the Land of Israel.”