Netanyahu to consider peace deal referendum

Netanyahu to consider peace deal referendum

PM says any agreement with Palestinians to be submitted for voters’ approval, promises to favorably consider referendum; Netanyahu vows to respond harshly to Gaza rocket attacks, reiterates demand for recognition of Jewish state

Attila Somfalvi

Published: 09.21.10, 18:29 / Israel News

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahuhe said he would favorably consider a national referendum before finalizing any agreement with the Palestinians during a tour of the Gaza vicinity communities Tuesday.

“It’s clear to me that any agreement I secure would be presented to the people to decide, and there are several methods for that,” he said in Sderot. “Such decision requires a national verdict, and I therefore said I would consider it (a referendum.)”

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The prime minister, who also visited Ashkelon, warned Hamas against firing at Israeli communities.

“Our prime commitment is security, and I suggest that Hamas and the other organizations refrain from testing our resolve to respond to the fire,” he said, arguing that the equation he presented on the matter prompted a reduction in the number of rocket attacks.

“I determined that fire (from Gaza) will meet a rapid response, and this brings down the number of missiles,” he said. “There was fire recently, and we responded and hit Hamas targets, including a senior Hamas figure. We shall continue with this policy.”

Netanyahu also stressed his unwavering commitment to the residents of Ashkelon who continue to live under the missile threat.

‘Recognize the Jewish state’

A day after Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas cynically dismissed calls to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, Netanyahu reiterated the demand: “The Palestinians must recognize the Jewish state, and the fact they haven’t done so raises doubts. I’m saying to Abbas – recognize the Jewish state.”

Meanwhile, the PM avoided an answer about the settlement construction freeze and whether it would be extended, saying: “Ask me again on Monday.” He also refused to respond to a question about whether Jonathan Pollard’s release was conditioned upon extending the freeze.

“We are aiming to secure his release, regardless of the freeze,” he said. “There is no need for a special event to bring up the Pollard issue.”

Ashkelon Mayor Benny Vaknin thanked Netanyahu for his support but also reminded him of the recent rocket attacks. “Since Operation Cast Lead four Grad missiles have landed in the city, including inside a school,” he said.

Qassam attacks against Israel continued in the past week. On Monday, a Qassam rocket landed in the Eshkol Regional Council and last Thursday nine mortar shells and rockets were fired at Israel. The IDF responded by attacking weapons caches in the Gaza Strip.

Shmulik Hadad contributed to the story

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