Who’s Right on a Referendum?

While there may not be too much optimism surrounding the announcement of peace talks, The Times of London‘s (subscription only) dismissal with this headline seems premature to say the least:


The article states:

Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, appeared to dampen hopes of a breakthrough in the Middle East peace process last night, saying that any agreement would be subject to a national referendum. …

Proposals for a referendum on any peace deal have been floated before, usually by Israeli hardliners scouting for obstacles to any concessions ceding Palestinian territories annexed by Israel in war.

Contrast this with the Daily Telegraph:

Mr Netanyau believes ratification in a national plebiscite could enable him to overcome Right-wing resistance by endowing a peace accord with popular legitimacy.

“The idea is that there will be no question about the legitimacy or lack of legitimacy [of any agreement] because people’s voices will have been heard,” said an Israeli official close to the prime minister. “Given the assumption that any agreement will contain difficult choices and compromises for Israel, you need that kind of legitimacy so that it can be implemented.

“The prime minister also believes that because he is from the Centre-Right and is seen as Mr Security, he has the ability to take the public along with him if he does reach an agreement he can support.”

I’m inclined to believe the latter analysis. So how did Catherine Philp of The Times reach her conclusion? Does she believe that a referendum on a peace deal is favored by Israeli “hardliners” because the Israeli public is not interested in peace?

While all of the polls taken over many years point to a majority of Israelis in favor of a peace deal and a two-state solution, this isn’t the first time someone in the media has wrongly suggested that Israel isn’t interested in peace.

In this latest case, Philp has demonstrated that she evidently has very little grasp over the complexities of Israeli politics and society.