Since the Carter-Clinton peace process began, Israeli governments had no cushion against the onslaught of US pressure to return land or make incredible concessions to political groups that continue to seek the small nation's destruction. Israelis were powerless to voice how they felt about hair-brained schemes thought up by care-less individuals in Foggy Bottom or elsewhere. Israeli leaders could be brow beaten or arm twisted into making choices worthy of banana republics world wide without regard to due process or democratic vote.
The Knesset approved on Monday the referendum law, which mandates a national referendum or a two thirds Knesset majority prior to a withdrawal from any territory under Israeli territory. The law was approved in its first reading by a majority of 65 MKs to 18.
The vote came as indirect peace talks were underway between Israel and Syria, revolving around the Syrian demand that Israel return the Golan Heights, which it captured from Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War, in return for peace. A third round of talks was to begin this week.
Earlier Monday, the "Golan Lobby" convened at the Knesset ahead of the vote. The meeting was attended by Deputy Prime Minister and Trade Minister Eli Yishai (Shas), who said that the law is a positive and important measure, though his party generally opposes holding referendums.
"I think that talk about [pulling out of the Golan] Heights cause great damage to the residents," Yishai said. "Anything we can do to help is a blessing and is required and therefore we will support the law."
The actual loser in this process is the US Department of State. Now, Condi and her henchmen have to do something totally at odds with State Department process--they will have to sell their ideas to a democratic public with the power to just say no. US steamrollers can no longer treat an Israeli prime minister like the head of a Junta. Unlike its neighbors, Israel is a democracy and folks here like to vote on issues. The meta-message to today's vote in the Knesset to Condi and others is simple--"It's the People, Stupid!"
Ain't democracy wonderful!