Netanyahu pushes referendum as State Dept. confirms talks agreement


(JTA) — A spokeswoman for the State Department confirmed that Palestinian and Israeli envoys will meet for formal negotiations.

“We have been clear there is an agreement between parties to resume final status negotiations,” Jen Psaki said Monday in Washington.

Two Palestinian Authority spokesmen had claimed earlier that the planned talks were only a preliminary meeting.

Psaki said that “there are only a limited number of parties who know the true details of what was agreed.”

Psaki also would not comment on reports that former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk had been chosen to mediate the talks. She said the United States was still finalizing its team for the negotiations.

Also Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced plans to fast-track a bill that would put any future peace deal to a national referendum.

Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennett of the Jewish Home party, a member of the government coalition, had threatened to vote against the proposed state budget unless Netanyahu advanced the referendum bill.

“Any agreement that is not approved by the people is not worthy of being signed,” Netanyahu told Israel’s Knesset, according to The Associated Press.

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