Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Israeli Referendum Law - First Thoughts

Linked is the text of the Israel referendum law that was just passed (in Hebrew), I skimmed through its 43 pages to get a general idea of what it says.

The law is actually not just about ceding land, but about approving a treaty that involves ceding land.

My summation of the law is as follows:
Any treaty involving the ceding/transfer of land away from the sovereignty of the state of Israel, (JS: including for instance the Golan which was annexed) to a foreign party would require a Knesset vote, with 80 votes ‘for’ the transfer.

If there is a majority of only between 61-79 vote ‘for’ the treaty which includes ceding any land (JS: and this part isn’t clear to me because of their choice of words, but presumably this would even include Tel Aviv, or other land swaps), then the vote would go to a referendum, where the public would decide.

The law, as I understand it right now, has its pros and cons.

There is a law on the books (law #97, thanks Jameel for looking it up) forbidding the transfer of any land under Israeli sovereignty to any foreign power. Any attempt to do would be considered an act of treason and the penalty is death or life in prison.

מי שעשה, בכוונה ששטח כלשהו יצא מריבונותה של המדינה או ייכנס לריבונותה של מדינת חוץ, מעשה שיש בו כדי להביא לכך, דינו - מיתה או מאסר עולם
Of course, this law is completely ignored, so it didn’t really matter if it is on the books.

During Oslo, Yitzchak Rabin openly bought the votes of 2 politicians to pass Oslo in the Knesset just to get a 61 majority, and we’ve been paying for that perfidy every since.

Ariel Sharon ran ram shod over every democratic institution to destroy Gush Katif (firing cabinet ministers who opposed him, blackmailing Bibi with the threat to destroy the economy if Bibi didn’t vote ‘for’, ignoring the internal vote in the Likud, etc.), and he too wouldn’t have otherwise had a 61 majority.

So in retrospect, a law like this would have at least added another layer of protection from politicians like these, especially when, in terms of Gush Katif, there was a huge public majority against Sharon and against the Expulsion, and when the majority of citizens didn't want Oslo once people started dying in the streets and restaurants.

On the downside, it legalizes the very concept that any land in Israel is negotiable and can be given away; a fundamentally bad idea in of itself.

Furthermore, this law can also be overturned at any time with a vote of 61.

There are other pros and cons, but these are my first thought on the subject. Perhaps I’ll address more in the future.

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Orange and Black said...

and you are not afraid the left will join with the arabs and vote for another gerush?

Chana said...

"Furthermore, this law can also be overturned at any time with a vote of 61."

And that is why the law is meaningless.

Fern @ Life on the Balcony said...

Here in California, we have laws tgat require a supermajority vote to do certain things, but tge only way to get rid of the law is through a viter referendum. I don't see tge point if a suoermajority rule that can be undine by a simple majority.

Fern @ Life on the Balcony said...

Ugh. I should not comment from my Nook. Sorry for all the typos.

JoeSettler said...

O&B: It's a concern. I am trusting that Am Yisrael as a whole would not vote for something so wrong.

Chana: It's a concern, but it's not as easy as it sounds.

Either way, it adds another safety net that didn't previously exist.

From the reactions of the PA and Syria it appears to be a good thing. Our enemies know that external (US) pressures can be placed on Bibi and the government. But a treaty that convinces the People will have to actually convince them that it is a good treaty.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Fern: LOL - thats what all my blackberry emails look like!

Joe: From the lawbooks:
Law 97

סימן ב': בגידה או
פגיעה בריבונות המדינה או בשלמותה

א. מי שעשה, בכוונה לפגוע בריבונותה של המדינה, מעשה שיש בו כדי לפגוע בריבונותה, דינו - מיתה
או מאסר עולם.

ב. מי שעשה, בכוונה ששטח כלשהו יצא מריבונותה של המדינה או ייכנס לריבונותה של מדינת חוץ, מעשה שיש בו כדי להביא לכך, דינו - מיתה או מאסר עולם

NormanF said...

The Israeli Left will try to overturn it because they think average Israelis are racist bumpkins who will not give away their land. I think they are correct about the judgment of the people. But there is a deeper fear that the Left has and this opens the door to the introduction of initiative in Israel. People would finally be able to legislate in place of the corrupt Knesset and reforms that are blocked by the establishment would pass with the voters. And they're not ready to give up that kind of control for they are elitists who hate the very thought of popular democracy. Its worked imperfectly in places like the American states but its nevertheless the one check the people do have left on an aloof, arrogant and high-handed officialdom. A referendum is just a start in Israel in dismantling the country's corrupt and tyrannical Leftist establishment but its only a start.

NormanF said...

I think its more than likely the law will be simply be ignored by Israel's political elite. They can't roll back democracy but they can try to keep the critical decisions in their hands: "we know better!" Still the symbolism is important in a country in which the people saw the political elite revoke the rightly to directly vote for the Prime Minister. And if they want to give away sovereign parts of Israel, my feeling is they're not going allow a trifling thing like the right of the people to vote on it to get in the way of it. Which changes nothing in practice for the foreseeable future.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, that's more reason to say Israel isn't a democracy than the voting rights of Palestinians.

Nachum said...

Once a signed treaty is presented, it's almost fait accompli that it will be supported by a majority.

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