A rejection of the first reading of the bill gives Sharon the last political victory necessary to advance his plan, after making a deal with Shinui for the passage of the 2005 budget that removed the Knesset dissolution threat. The budget is to be put to a vote Tuesday night.
The key to the passage of the bill, therefore, was support from the Likud faction. But no factional voting discipline was in place on Likud MKs, despite a decision by the party to support a referendum.
Only a regular majority of MKs was needed to pass the bill, but since it would have been a basic law any change to it would have required the support of 61 MKs. According to the bill, the referendum would have been decided by a majority of those who vote.
Haredi rabbis fear a referendum law could be amended and serve as a platform for deciding issues of state and religion.
Sources: Jerusalem Post, (March 28, 2005)