Gush Katif referendum idea still alive (JERUSALEM POST) By TOVAH LAZAROFF 02/04/05)
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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
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
"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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