Last updated: 2 May, 2013

Israeli prime minister says any peace deal will go to referendum

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday he would put any peace deal reached with the Palestinians to a referendum, in a meeting with the Swiss foreign minister.

“If we get to a peace agreement with the Palestinians, I’d like to bring it to a referendum. And I’d like to talk to you about your experiences with that,” Netanyahu told Didier Burkhalter, the premier’s office said in a statement.

“If you can come to Switzerland, where you are any time invited, then I can show you the referendum, how it works, because we have all the time referendums,” Burkhalter replied.

Netanyahu said in 2010 that he would consider submitting any peace agreement he might reach with the Palestinians to a referendum, during long-awaited peace talks which stalled that month and have not resumed since.

Thursday’s statement came a day after Netanyahu rejected the idea that an Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories would bring peace, in an apparent snub to a modification of an 11-year-old pan-Arab peace plan.

“The root of the conflict is not territorial. It started a long time before 1967,” Netanyahu said in a meeting with foreign ministry officials, referring to the year Israel seized Gaza, the West Bank and east Jerusalem during the Six-Day War.

“The Palestinians’ lack of will to recognise the state of Israel as the national state of the Jewish people is the root of the conflict,” Netanyahu said.

The remarks followed Arab League moves on Tuesday to revive and modify its 2002 peace initiative, which drew praise from Washington and Israel’s chief peace negotiator Tzipi Livni but no official response from the Israeli government.

The Saudi-led proposal, which offers full diplomatic ties with the Arab world in exchange for Israel’s withdrawal from land occupied in 1967, now includes a reference to the principle of mutually agreed land swaps, a move hailed by Washington as “a very big step forward.”

But the day of the announcement, two deadly incidents took place in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, killing an Israeli and a Palestinian respectively.

A knife-wielding Palestinian on Tuesday killed a Jewish settler at a West Bank checkpoint in the first fatal anti-Israeli attack in the territory in 18 months, prompting clashes that injured several settlers and Palestinians.

And an Israeli air strike on Gaza City the same day killed a suspected Salafist Islamist militant who the military accused of involvement in rocket fire against the Red Sea resort town of Eilat in April.