Yesh Atid blocks referendum on peace deals
Lapid's faction opposes PM, buries proposal to put land transfer to popular vote; Yesh Atid MK: Debate hypothetical, no diplomatic momentum
The Yesh Atid faction, headed by Finance Minister Yair Lapid, decided on Monday to oppose Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett's initiative to pass a Basic Law requiring a referendum before any peace treaty with the Palestinians is signed.
The decision by Yesh Atid, the second largest part in the coalition, effectively buries the proposal.
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"The discussion (surrounding the referendum issue) is hypothetical at the moment, as there is no diplomatic momentum," Knesset Member Ronen Hoffman said during the faction's weekly meeting. "When the time comes, we will be able to discuss the need for a referendum specifically - not necessarily as a basic law."
According to the proposal, a referendum will be held only in the event that a peace agreement will call for the withdrawal from land that is under full Israeli sovereignty, such as east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. It does not apply to the West Bank.
Bennett's Habayit Hayehudi party supports the proposal, but Minister Tzipi Livni, who is in charge of the negotiations with the Palestinians, is against it. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his deputy in the Likud-Beiteinu faction, MK Avigdor Lieberman, are also at odds over the matter.
Netanyahu told a faction meeting he would advance the proposal "for the simple reason that this issue could determine fates." Lieberman, on the other hand, said he and his associates are "not enthusiastic" about the proposal. "There's a government and it must govern, not everything can be passed to a referendum," he said during the faction meeting.
Coalition chairman Yariv Levin (Likud-Beiteinu), who helped draft the proposal, said Yesh Atid's decision shows that it is "continuing along the dangerous line of deepening the division within the nation, rather than accepting decisions in a way that unites the entire public."
The MK said Yesh Atid's decision constitutes a violation of coalition agreements and "proves once again that the Lapid-Bennett axis lacks a real common denominator and is quickly collapsing."