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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.

    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.

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    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.’’

    Associated Press