Golan overlooking Sea of Galilee
Golan overlooking Sea of Galilee
The Knesset has approved a bill mandating a popular referendum before land in the Golan, Jerusalem or other part of sovereign Israel is given away. Yesha (Judea and Samaria) is not included.

Sponsored by MK Avigdor Yitzchaki of Kadima, the proposed legislation is an amendment to the existing law regarding a give-away of Israeli territory. The existing law states that no sovereign land may be given away without approval of the Cabinet, the Knesset, and a popular referendum. However, it adds that the referendum requirement will not come into effect until a Basic Law on plebiscites is legislated - thus obviating the need for a referendum.

Yitzchaki's bill does away with that qualification, thus leaving the referendum clause in effect.

The bill has nothing to do with a possible future withdrawal from Judea and Samaria, which has not yet been annexed by the State of Israel.

The bill was approved in a preliminary Knesset reading by a 26-18 vote, against the position of the government. It must still pass additional Knesset readings as well as a Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee vote before coming law.

"This vote proves that there is no majority in Israel's Knesset supporting a return the Golan Heights to Syria," MK Yitzchaki said. "The Prime Minister must now know clearly that it will not be he, but rather the people, who will decide whether to accept agreements concerning concession of sovereign Israeli land."

Polls have consistently shown that a majority of Israelis are against giving away the Golan. The recent October Peace Index survey, carried out last year, showed that 67% of Israelis oppose giving away the Golan even in exchange for "full peace." A giant protest rally seven years ago in Tel Aviv - some estimates were that half-a-million people showed up - put to rest until recently any talk of giving away the Golan.

Political Ramifications

"This is an important accomplishment for the opposition," said Likud faction whip MK Gideon Saar. "Only 18 out of 78 coalition MKs supported the government's position, proving that the coalition exists only on paper."

Likud MK Yisrael Katz, head of the Knesset Golan Lobby, said, "This vote is a clear message to Syria and others that Israel will never give up the Golan Heights."

Golan Guarantee for the Galilee

The Golan, a mountainous area directly overlooking much of Israel's northern plain, was used by Syria to attack Israeli towns in the years leading up to the Six Day War. In June 1967, Israel finally captured and liberated the Heights, and within weeks, Galilee farmers took their first moves to settle the Golan so as to ensure that the pre-war situation would never return. When they first ascended the mountains and looked down at Israel from the former Syrian positions, some of them were quoted as saying that they had never realized that every move of theirs had been visible to the Syrian gunners above.