Avi Dichter
Avi DichterYonatan Sindel/Flash 90

MK Avi Dichter (Likud), chairman of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, on Tuesday rejected an initiative by a group of leftists for a referendum on the future of Israeli presence in Judea and Samaria.

The initiative was launched by a group of former government ministers and members of Knesset, including, according to a report in Haaretz, former Shin Bet security service head and minister Ami Ayalon; former Labor Party chairman Amram Mitzna; former ministers Yuli Tamir, Uzi Baram, Ophir Pines and Michael Melchior; former MKs Daniel Ben-Simon and Tzali Reshef; former Israel Police Major-General Alik Ron; Israel Defense Forces Brig. Gen. (res.) Giora Inbar; Noa Rotman, granddaughter of the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin; Geneva Initiative member Shaul Arieli; businessman Orni Petruschka; Gilad Sher, CEO of the Blue and White Future movement; Peace Now director Avi Buskila; and actors Gavri Banai and Ricky Blich.

The group plans to promote legislation calling for a referendum on the issue during the coming year, while conducting a public campaign and other events. The initiative was launched as the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Six Day War, in which Israel liberated Judea and Samaria, approaches.

But Dichter outright dismissed the idea, telling foreign reporters during a briefing, "This is an initiative of serious former security personnel, including people who served as members of Knesset and government ministers, but failed to advance such an initiative from the Knesset or the government."

"I am completely against a unilateral withdrawal from any area of Judea and Samaria,” he stressed. “The fact that president Mahmoud Abbas is not ready to promote a diplomatic process must not be construed by us as a situation requiring Israel to act unilaterally against its own interests just to please any government - however sympathetic to Israel.”

Dichter continued by noting that this was his position in the past as well. "In 2005, when I was head of the Shin Bet, I insisted that no decision be made to withdraw from Samaria, in the area where a disengagement from four Israeli communities took place. A military presence on an area four times the size of Gaza was and remains essential to ensure the security of Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria, as well as communities inside Israel."

“A unilateral withdrawal would be suicide for us,” he warned. “The building is not collapsing. There are stairways and ladders to make our way safely until we decide that the time and conditions are ripe to restore negotiations.”

"The statement that in the absence of a peace partner, the solution is a unilateral withdrawal is a bad perception for Israel,” said Dichter. "We must not be threatened that if we do not unilaterally withdraw, we are doomed to perish as the national homeland of the Jewish people. Anyone who wants to lead a different policy than Likud, should run in democratic elections and head a coalition.”