JERUSALEM (Jul. 23)
The Israeli Knesset has taken a first — albeit challenged — vote toward making it difficult to give up any of the Golan Heights in a peace deal with Syria.
The bill, sponsored by Tsomet Knesset member Modi Zandberg, would require a majority of 80 in the 120-member parliament to change the law annexing the area.
Israel captured the Golan from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War, and Damascus has always said that any peace deal with Israel must include withdrawal from the Golan.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he did not expect the bill’s passage to present further obstacles in talks with Damascus, which have been suspended for more than a year.
Netanyahu said the Golan Heights was an issue of national importance, and any decision on the area’s future would require national consensus.
Opposition members have demanded a revote.
They accused Knesset speaker Dan Tichon of holding the vote amid a period of pandemonium in the Knesset.
Tichon rejected the charges, but he agreed to review a videotape of the vote to determine whether to hold another ballot.
Just before the vote, a similar bill was defeated in a tie of 50-50.
But opposition members claimed that as they were celebrating that victory, Tichon called the second vote. While the reading of the first bill was a roll call, the reading of the second bill was electronic, and many members did not have time to get back to their seats.
In the confusion, Meretz Knesset member Chaim Oron said he mistakenly voted for the bill, which passed in a first reading 43-40, with two abstentions.
The vote was the first of three votes necessary for it to become law.
In another twist, members of the Netanyahu government voted for Zandberg’s Golan bill, despite a reported coalition decision to oppose it.
Netanyahu rejected suggestions of lack of coalition discipline, saying that the coalition members had been given freedom to vote in the ballot.