Knesset passes law requiring referendum to cede land
JERUSALEM — Israel’s Knesset passed a law that requires a referendum to approve the withdrawal from sovereign Israeli territory.
The new law approved Thursday becomes part of the country’s Basic Law, which makes it difficult to change or to legislate around, and requires an absolute Knesset majority of 61 to be overturned. The law was sponsored by the Jewish Home Party.
The law was approved on its third reading by a vote of 68 to 0. The vote was boycotted by the opposition parties after the government coalition limited debate on the bill as well as two other controversial bills: the Governance Act, which was passed on Tuesday and raises the election threshold to 3.25 percent, and the military draft bill, which was passed on Wednesday and removes most exemptions for haredi Orthodox yeshiva students to serve in the Israel Defense Forces.
Under the law, any government decision to give up part of Jerusalem, which was annexed by Israel in 1967, or the Golan Heights, annexed in 1981, would require the public’s approval via a referendum before it could be carried out, according to Haaretz. The law does not apply to withdrawals from the West Bank, which was never annexed. If more than 80 lawmakers support a treaty which gives up land, it can be ratified without a referendum.
A previous referendum law was passed by the Knesset in 2010. But that law could have been overturned by the Supreme Court.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke in the Knesset plenum in advance of the vote. . “A decision on a diplomatic agreement must be acceptable to the public,” Netanyahu said, adding that a public vote “is the only thing that will preserve the domestic peace among us.”