Israeli Referendum: No peace in our lifetime

On Monday, November 24, 2010, the Israeli parliament, the Knesset passed a new law – initiated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party – requiring any withdrawal from East Jerusalem or the Golan Height to be approved by two-thirds of the legislature or in a popular referendum. Obviously the chances of that happening are so slim; this law in effect takes these bargaining points off the table.
 
The war of 1967 saw Israel occupy and annex both these territories, a move which has never been recognised as legitimate by any country including the United States. In fact, this is considered a violation of international law by the United Nations and the UN’s Security Council Resolution 242 requires Israel to withdraw from these territories.
 
Unfortunately with time comes a new generation and faded memories. The demographics of the Jewish state are now that the majority of the population had not yet been born or had not yet immigrated to Israel at the time of the 1967 war. As a consequence, these people have never known the country to be without these lands and the reasons why these lands should be returned seem more and more irrelevant.
 
The Palestinians see this as a growing intransigence on the part of the Israelis for any negotiated settlement of the disputes which exist between the two groups. As Israel faces no immediate problems by maintaining the current status quo, the Israeli leaders will find it increasing difficult to sell their electorate on relinquishing anything they currently control. As such, the Palestinians may look elsewhere like the United Nations for some sort of imposed solution. However one must remember that whatever solution is offered up by any party, the Israelis themselves must agree to it. War is not an option and no outside party is going to impose any solution by force.
 
Reaction
In the face of these actions by the current right-wing government, Reuters reported:
 
Palestinians see the referendum law as a spoiling tactic designed to prevent any potential deals done under future left-leaning Israeli governments from ever being ratified.
 
"This gives the power of veto to the Israeli side. So in my opinion, this is a death sentence for the so-called peace process," said Mustafa Al-Barghouti, an independent Palestinian politician, who ran for the presidency in a 2005 election.
 
Other Arab nations have condemned this move saying it will harm the peace process. However it is not just outside of Israel that people are protesting. Opposition parties and even some members of Netanyahu’s coalition have criticized the bill. Reuters quotes Defence Minister Ehud Barak, leader of the Labour party, "It’s not a good law, certainly not at this point in time. A Palestinian state is in Israel’s clear interest," he added.
 
Is this merely a move on the part of the right or is this representative of the country as a whole? Reuters goes on to report:
 
…a Hebrew University poll from March said 71 percent of Israelis supported a 2-state solution and 60 percent backed dismantling most of the settlements in such a deal.
 
The most heated and passionate debate would likely arise over any moves to hand back East Jerusalem. Palestinians say this will be the capital of their longed-for state, while Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its undivided capital.
 
All of this is not going unnoticed by Jewish supporters elsewhere in the world. Mick Davis, chairman of the UJIA and executive of the Jewish Leadership Council in Great Britain has come out strongly against this move and the government of Netanyahu saying that Netanyahu lacked the courage and the strategy to take the steps to lead to peace in the Middle East. Davis went on to say that for years the Jewish community not in Israel has avoided expressing moral reservations regarding the Israeli government’s decisions and policies. British leaders felt they could not voice their opinions for fear of their ideas being used by Israel’s enemies.

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