Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s promise that any peace agreement with the Palestinians would have to go through a public referendum before being finalized was intended to placate opponents of peace and save his coalition.
Instead, the promise has split the coalition the other way, with proponents of a peace deal seeing the move as effectively ruining the prospects of peace. Which of course was the whole point.
“When we go to war we don’t ask the people, and the same should hold for a peace arrangement,” noted Tzipi Livni, who would be in charge of negotiations. Livni has allies in the narrow coalition, notably the Yesh Atid Party, which could potentially force early elections.
The matter is complicated, as Israel doesn’t have an actual legal mechanism in place for a referendum right now, and the offer was clearly never meant to be taken up. The peace talks are, to quote other Israeli officials, only meant to last through September to keep the Palestinians from going to the UN General Assembly. Beyond that they don’t really matter for the current, heavily divided government.