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Israel legislators pass bill requiring referendum on peace treaties

The Israeli Knesset [official website] approved legislation Monday that would require referendums on peace treaties involving ceding land that the country has annexed. In a 65-33 vote, the legislature decided that a referendum would be required [AP report] for any agreement involving the surrender of annexed land that fails to win a two-thirds majority in parliament. The legislation would apply to possible peace deals that include withdrawal from the Golan Heights or East Jerusalem, territories annexed in 1967. Under the new bill, a two-thirds Knesset majority vote would be required to cede land in East Jerusalem to the Palestinians or in the Golan Heights to Syria. Otherwise, either withdrawal would become subject to a national referendum. Tzipi Livni, the head of the opposition Kadima party, and Anat Wilf of the Labour party, opposed the bill [CNN report], which is supported by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [official website]. The legislation has been criticized [VOA report] by both Palestinian and Syrian officials.

East Jerusalem, along with the West Bank, was under Jordanian control until the 1967 war [NPR backgrounder], when Israel took control over the territory from Jordan and took the Gaza Strip [BBC backgrounder] from Egyptian control. Israel seized the Golan Heights [BBC backgrounder] from Syria during the 1967 war and asserted military control over the territory. Israel continues to construct settlements in East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights in an attempt to alter the ethnic and demographic composition [JURIST op-ed] of the occupied territories. In June, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] criticized Israeli plans to demolish Palestinian homes [JURIST report] in East Jerusalem, describing them as contrary to international law. In March, Ban called Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank "illegal" [JURIST report].

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