Amidst continuing queries whether the deal of US "incentives" for an Israeli three-month settlement freeze in the West Bank can be delivered, the Palestinian side has been criticising the bill in the Israeli Knesset proposing that any withdrawal from the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem is subject to a referendum.
On Tuesday, the head of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, said: "This step puts obstacles in the way of the political process. The Israelis want to tell the whole world that they will not withdraw from Jerusalem or the Golan."
The Arab League,on Wednesday targeted the bill for "illustrating the aggressive character" of the Israeli government and its "disregard for international law."
However, Haaretz's Akiva Eldar points out a twist in the bill. The opinions of Israel's people will be sought only if the Knesset has approved an agreement signed by the government; those opinions will have no value if the Knesset has rejected a proposal. Eldar concludes that "the referendum bill uses public as peace-deal rubber stamp".
The bill mandating a referendum before any decision to withdraw from sovereign Israeli territory enables the public to approve an accepted peace agreement, but does not enable the public to appeal the Knesset's decision to reject an agreement which includes withdrawing from territories.
According to the bill, which was approved by the Knesset on Sunday with a majority of 65 MKs, a regular majority, (for example of seven in favor and six against), is enough to terminate a peace agreement that was approved by the government, if the agreement entails a territorial withdrawal from East Jerusalem, The Golan Heights or any other land in the Green Line.
Clause 7a (1) of the bill states that "the question posed before the voter in a referendum will be: Are you for or against the agreement between Israel and (the name of the country) that the knesset approved on (the date of the Knesset approval)?" The emphasis is on the words "that the Knesset approved."
Clause 7b (2) reiterates the wording of the question that will be presented in the referendum, that includes the words "that the Knesset approved," from which stems that the referendum will not be carried out if the Knesset rejects the agreement. It states that "if the government brings the decision before the Knesset, as stated in clause 1a (b), the voter in the referendum will be presented with a question: "are you for or against the government's decision number (the number of the decision) that the Knesset approved on (the date of the Knesset approval)?"
The wording of the question contradicts Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's statement that the referendum "enables to pass with strong public support an agreement that answers the national interests of Israel."
In fact, the referendum turns the public into an appeals court for its constituent's decisions, even in the case that there are a majority of 79 votes – to approve a future peace agreement with Palestinians and the Syrians. The law does not enable the public to grant its support for an agreement which the majority believes answers Israel's national interest, and was previously blocked by some sort of majority in the Knesset.