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Weekly Commentary: National referendum - preserve the social contract (IMRA-INDEPENDENT MEDIA REVIEW ANALYSIS) Aaron Lerner Date: 27 January 2005)Source: http://www.imra.org.il/story.php3?id=23866 IMRA} INDEPENDENT MEDIA REVIEW ANALYSIS IMRA} INDEPENDENT MEDIA REVIEW ANALYSIS Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
Let´s make this clear:

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon brought his Likud party a landslide victory in an election campaign that focused on one issue - unilateral withdrawal. Sharon explicitly and emphatically campaigned against unilateral withdrawal.

Retreat supporters can roll their eyes and repeat a thousand times that Sharon´s "painful concession for peace" actually meant "unilateral withdrawal" - but it was a lie the first time they made the assertion and it is a lie today - no matter which Likud MK or minister repeats it.

The hundreds of thousands of citizens who voted Likud because Sharon ridiculed his rival´s proposal for unilateral withdrawal weren´t idiots who misunderstood. They were betrayed.

And again - let´s make this clear: the idea of holding a national referendum on such a critical and momentous move as the uprooting of thousands of Israelis from their communities and retreating to allow for the formation of some kind of sovereign Palestinian entity within arms reach of scores of communities and strategic targets is neither new or novel.

Over a decade ago Yitzhak Rabin endorsed the national referendum concept when he committed to having a plebiscite on any withdrawal from the Golan and the prime ministers who followed him repeated that commitment. Rabin´s national referendum proposal was embraced by many of the same politicians who today claim that a plebiscite is out of the question.

Retreat supporter can threaten a thousand times that if a national referendum is held on the "disengagement" that it would open the floodgates for referendums on various controversial proposals that enjoy the support of the majority of Israelis but could never make it through the give and take dynamics of the parliamentary system. But these retreat supporters know damn well that a plebiscite could only be held for a proposal that already was approved by the Knesset.

A national referendum on disengagement would not bypass the Knesset. It would simply serve to assure, after the Knesset has endorsed such a momentous and irreversible program, that the will of the People regarding the program is truly honored.

But what about the polls? The "will of the People" isn´t expressed by a random sample of 510 adult Israelis hurriedly answering a pollster while the TV is blasting and the kids are asking for dinner. It is citizens going to the polling stations at the culmination of a great national debate.

Israel had just such a great national debate on unilateral withdrawal in the 2003 elections and roundly rejected the disengagement supporting parties.

Denying the People the opportunity to express its will today would represents such a gross and cynical betrayal of the social compact that binds us together that I shudder to think of the consequences. (IMRA.ORG.IL 01/27/05)

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