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Netanyahu fast-tracking peace referendum bill

JERUSALEM — Israel’s premier said Monday he is fast-tracking legislation that would allow him to put any peace deal with the Palestinians to a national referendum, an apparent attempt to silence hard-liners in his party and coalition government.

Benjamin Netanyahu spoke three days after US Secretary of State John Kerry said progress has been made toward a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, which have been stalled for five years.

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Kerry has invited Israeli and Palestinian negotiators to Washington for preliminary talks, though wide gaps remain on the framework of the negotiations.

Netanyahu said Monday that a referendum is needed to prevent a rift in Israeli society.

Polls have suggested a majority of Israelis support the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, but many groups are vehemently opposed, including hard-liners among Israel’s West Bank settlers. Some issues to be settled in a peace deal are particularly explosive, including a partition of Jerusalem, home to major religious shrines and claimed by both sides as a capital.

Peace talks would also determine Israel’s borders with a future Palestine and the fate of Palestinian refugees and their millions of descendants.

Netanyahu said he would present legislation to his Cabinet and Parliament, adding: ‘‘Any agreement that is not approved by the people is not worthy of being signed.’’

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