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Netanyahu open to peace referendum

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter on May 2 Keystone

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asked Switzerland for its help in organising a referendum on a peace treaty with the Palestinians.

This content was published on May 2, 2013 - 12:39
swissinfo.ch and agencies

Netanyahu made the comments during talks with the Swiss Foreign Minister, Didier Burkhalter, on Thursday in Jerusalem.

"Come to Switzerland and we will advise you,” Burkhalter responded.

"If we get to a peace agreement with the Palestinians, I'd like to bring it to a referendum," Netanyahu said at the start of his meeting with Burkhalter.

The Israeli prime minister's statement could indicate he backs a contentious step that might hinder peace efforts due to political infighting.

Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians have been frozen for more than four years, but the referendum issue re-emerged this week when two of Netanyahu's main coalition partners reportedly signaled support for the proposal.

Many ministers of Netanyahu’s government are opposed though to the idea of organising a referendum on the issue, however – in particular Tzipi Livni, who is responsible for negotiations with the Palestinians. They fear that the Israelis will have to make important territorial concessions.

Israel passed a bill in 2010 governing peace negotiations that would require approval by two-thirds of parliament or, failing that, a majority of voters in a referendum if the Golan Heights or east Jerusalem are to be ceded in any deal.

The law was seen as an attempt by hardliners to add an additional obstacle to any efforts to cede the annexed areas as part of any future peace agreement.

According to the Swiss Foreign Ministry, the discussions between Burkhalter and Netanyahu primarily focused on deepening bilateral relations between Switzerland and Israel, the situation in the region, and Swiss contributions in support of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

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