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Likud MKs to Press for Referendum

President Katzav is apparently in favor of a referendum on the unilateral withdrawal/expulsion plan, as are Education Minister Livnat, Finance Minister Netanyahu - and many Likud MKs.
First Publish: 10/17/2004, 3:25 PM / Last Update: 10/17/2004, 9:50 AM

"The genie has been let out of the bottle, and no matter how much some people try to push it back in, it refuses to do so." This is how an Army Radio reporter describes the growing support for a national referendum on the disengagement. Prime Minister Sharon rejected out of hand all calls for a referendum only a month ago, but now even President Moshe Katzav is expected to tell him tomorrow - according to a Maariv report - that a referendum is necessary.

Katzav, speaking with Arutz-7 last week, refused to express his position on the referendum, but did say, "In general, on any cardinal matter of historic significance, when the decision is liable to be made in the Knesset by a very narrow majority, and when there is a fear that the decision could cause a split in the nation, then it would be right to bring this issue to a popular vote."

Another late addition to the pro-referendum camp is Education Minister Limor Livnat, who met last night with leaders of the settlement enterprise in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Livnat raised the possibility that the Knesset vote next week on the first reading of the disengagement law stipulate that a referendum be held. Her support for a referendum is not absolute: "The issue must be taken to the people - either elections or a referendum."

Minister Livnat added that both sides must commit themselves in advance to abide by the results of a referendum, if held. "There will always be a minority that will refuse to accept the results," she said, "but... the residents of Yesha also would prefer not to take a collision course, and they understand that if the majority wants [a withdrawal] then they don't have a choice." Before the previous referendum - an internal Likud party vote - Prime Minister Sharon promised to abide by the results, but in fact, according to most observers, did not do so.

Livnat met with the Prime Minister on this issue today, but the latter did not accept her opinion. The Likud Knesset faction will debate the issue tomorrow, with the 12-15 MKs who openly oppose the disengagement expected to strongly support a referendum.