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Gush Katif referendum idea still alive (JERUSALEM POST) By TOVAH LAZAROFF 02/04/05)Source: http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1107400722617 JERUSALEM POST JERUSALEM POST Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
A national referendum could be introduced into the Disengagement Plan Implementation Bill now being debated by two Knesset committees in advance of a plenum vote set to take place within the next two weeks.

To date, the idea of a national referendum has been supported mainly by opponents of disengagement, who on Sunday held a rally of some 130,000 people demanding that a plebiscite be held on the matter.

MKs who oppose the referendum fear that holding one now could open the door for any future government decision to be dependent on a referendum.

To assuage such a fear, the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee is weighing a rider to the implementation bill in the form of a Basic Law stipulating that a national referendum be used only for questions of territorial exchange.

Among those swayed by the shift is MK Avraham Ravitz (United Torah Judaism) who said while on a Law Committee tour of Gush Katif on Thursday that, under such narrow parameters, he would support a national referendum. He is asking the religious leaders of his party to support it as well.

Prior to the proposal to narrow the scope of a referendum to territorial exchange, Ravitz said, he had opposed it out of fear that it could be used to change laws safeguarding religious rights. The new narrow focus of the bill makes that only a slim possibility.

It´s a small risk to take to prevent bloodshed, added Ravitz. He has become convinced, he said, that a national referendum could prevent a situation in which one Jew would spill the blood of another.

He was also influenced, he said, by Gush Katif residents who said they would leave if disengagement had the support of a national referendum. Among them was Avi Farhan, 58, one of the founders of Elei Sinai in the Gaza Strip, who had previously lived in Yamit until its evacuation in 1982. Otherwise, Farhan said, he would rather live in his Elei Sinai home under Palestinian rule than move.

To show how serious he was, Farhan showed them an article about him that appeared in Thursday´s Jerusalem Post.

The Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, too, has pledged to abide by the results of a referendum.

The Law Committee is weighing including the referendum in the Implementation Bill as part of its examination of the legal issues surrounding the bill.

At the same time, work progressed at a snail´s pace as the Finance Committee met late into the night with an eye toward holding a vote Sunday on the final version of the bill, which details the compensation due to the Jewish residents of the Gaza Strip and four communities in northern Samaria that are slated for evacuation this summer.

"The meeting will go well into the night if not through the night," said MK and Finance Committee member Ronny Brison (Shinui).

The meeting began Thursday morning, but by late afternoon the committee had reviewed only 20 of the 150 paragraphs in the bill, mostly dealing with technical matters, said Brison. Hundreds of proposals to amend the bill have been made, he said.

One proposed change would increase the total sum spent on disengagement from NIS 2.2 to NIS 3.2 billion, said committee member Nissan Slomiansky (National Religious Party).

"If we want to vote on the bill by Sunday, we have our work cut out for us," said Brison.

The Prime Minister´s Office has been hoping to bring a finalized version of the bill to the Knesset for approval on Monday, but Brison and other committee members believe that date is premature. The process is so time-consuming that a subcommittee is still hashing out a final version of the revised bill even as the Finance Committee has already begun its debate on it.

The reading of the bill in the Knesset itself is also likely to be time-consuming, said Brison. It is more likely that the bill will be brought to the Knesset in the latter part of next week and voted on the following week.

The significance of the Finance Committee debate is not in its approval of the bill, but in the details that it changes, said Brison. Should committee members fail to come any agreement, the Knesset plenum would simply revert back to the original bill, he said. (© 1995-2005, The Jerusalem Post 02/04/05)

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