Abbas vows to hold referendum on any peace proposal

US diplomat Martin Indyk named mediator for Mid-East talks

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas says any agreement reached in peace talks with Israel will be brought to a referendum.

On Sunday Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu made a similar pledge to Israeli voters following the announcement by US secretary of state John Kerry that he had clinched agreement from both sides over the resumption of negotiations.

However, Mr Abbas warned that if no agreement was reached after the peace push, all options would remain open.

He told the Jordanian newspaper Al Rai that Washington was serious in formulating a solution leading to the creation of a Palestinian state within the 1967 lines with east Jerusalem as its capital.


"We were close to an agreement with Ehud Olmert, but he stumbled in the political arena, and then came Binyamin Netanyahu and the peace process was disrupted," he said.

Israeli-Arab Knesset member Ahmad Tibi has warned that the collapse of the talks may lead to another Palestinian intifada uprising.

Mr Tibi, who maintains close ties to the West Bank Palestinian leadership, said he has sensed the “bottled-up rage on the Palestinian street over the occupation and the missed opportunity.”

Justice minister Tzipi Livni, who will head the Israeli negotiating team, Mr Netanyahu's envoy Yitzhak Molcho and Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat are due to meet in Washington next week to set the framework and timetable for the talks, which are expected to last between nine months and a year.

Veteran US diplomat Martin Indyk has been named as mediator for the talks.

According to media reports the US is keen on moving to detailed discussions on the core issues as quickly as possible.

Washington is pressing Mr Netanyahu to present in detail in the initial stage of the talks his vision on the borders of the planned Palestinian state. The Americans fear that if Israel does not do this and prevents a serious discussion on borders, the negotiations will hit an impasse within a short time.

Left-wing Israeli politicians have criticised Mr Netanyahu’s proposed referendum, saying it was aimed at “sabotaging” chances of a peace agreement.

Ms Livni, considered the most dovish cabinet member, said the idea of putting a peace deal up to a national vote would undermine her role as an elected official.

“The public elected us to make the courageous decisions. The general election is the only real referendum,” she said.

The right-wing Jewish Home party said it would vote in favour of the annual budget only if legislation mandating a referendum was passed.

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss is a contributor to The Irish Times based in Jerusalem