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Israeli cabinet approves referendum bill for Palestinian peace deal

Israeli cabinet approves referendum bill for Palestinian peace deal

PanARMENIAN.Net - The Israeli cabinet has approved a bill requiring any peace deal with the Palestinians to be put to a referendum, according to BBC News.

A statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said that it was "important that on such historic decisions every citizen should vote directly".

The cabinet has also been discussing a controversial proposal by the PM to free a number of Palestinian prisoners.

The release forms part of U.S.-backed efforts to resume the peace process. The Israeli government will seek "urgent and important" approval for the referendum bill, asking parliament to fast-track its passage.

"Any agreement which may be reached in negotiations will be put to a referendum," Netanyahu's office said.

The bill is seen as a conciliatory gesture to right-wing members of the government who are wary of concessions Israel might have to make during peace process negotiations.

The issue of the release of the prisoners, some of whom have carried out militant attacks that claimed Israeli lives, has proved more difficult for the PM.

The cabinet meeting Sunday, July 28, was delayed by an hour as he sought support.

"This moment is not easy for me, is not easy for the cabinet ministers, and is not easy especially for the bereaved families, whose feelings I understand," Netanyahu said ahead of the meeting. "But there are moments in which tough decisions must be made for the good of the nation and this is one of those moments."

It has been suggested by Palestinian sources, although not confirmed officially, that peace talks could start again in the U.S. next week. The negotiations have been stalled since 2010.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced on July 19 that the talks would begin "in the next week or so". He said the parties had "reached an agreement that establishes a basis for resuming direct final status negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis".

The Palestinians have insisted Israel recognize pre-1967 ceasefire lines as borders of a Palestinian state, subject to some negotiation, before any talks commence, but this is something that has been opposed by right-wing members of Netanyahu's coalition.

The issue of settlement-building halted the last direct talks in September 2010.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said he will also put any peace deal to a referendum.

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