Israeli parliament okays advancing referendum bill

09:49, December 10, 2009      

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The Israeli parliament on Wednesday gave the go-ahead for a bill that requires a referendum on any concession of land currently under the country's claimed sovereignty.

More than half of the parliament voted in favor of moving forward with the bill, which was aborted due to the early dissolution of the previous parliament late last year but was revisited months ago by the new government.

According to the proposed legislation, if the Israeli government decides to cede to another country any piece of land over which the Jewish state claims sovereignty, a referendum must be held and the concession deal will be contingent on its passing the national vote, unless the deal clears the 120-member parliament with at least a two-thirds majority.

Despite criticism that such a rule would fetter the government in future peace negotiations, the Israeli government on Tuesday night decided to support the bill.

The bill apparently relates to the Golan Heights and the Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. The Jewish state captured both the strategic highland and the Arab-dominated eastern section of the holy city in 1967, before annexing both in early 1980s.

Should Israel reach peace accords with Syria and the Palestinians in the future, it will likely have to withdraw from the two areas, a scenario that will undoubtedly stir up bitter controversy in the Israeli public.

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