New law requires referendum to cede land within Israel

Israeli voters must approve any surrender of sovereign Israeli territory under a bill passed by the Knesset.

The referendum measure approved March 13 becomes part of the country’s Basic Law, which makes it difficult to change or legislate around, and requires an absolute Knesset majority of 61 to be overturned. The Jewish Home party sponsored the bill, which was approved on its third reading by a vote of 68 to 0. Opposition parties boycotted the vote.

Under the referendum law, any government decision to cede land within Israel; eastern 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 the Israeli daily Haaretz. The law does not apply to withdrawals from the West Bank, which was never annexed. If more than 80 lawmakers support a treaty that gives up land, it can be ratified without a referendum.

The idea of land swaps in which Israel would trade land from within its pre-1967 territory in exchange for West Bank settlements has been proposed in previous Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Before the vote, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “A decision on a diplomatic agreement must be acceptable to the public,”  adding that a public vote “is the only thing that will preserve the domestic peace among us.” — jta