Israel's rulers push new peace referendum bill

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement to the media at the Knesset, Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem, Monday, July 22, 2013. Israel's premier announced Monday he is fast-tracking legislation that would allow him to put any future peace deal with the Palestinians to a national referendum. Netanyahu said 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. (AP Photo/Baz Ratner, Pool)

JERUSALEM (AP) — A spokeswoman for Israel's ruling Likud Party says parliament could vote as early as next week on a bill requiring a national referendum on any peace deal with the Palestinians.

Michal Gerstner said Tuesday that Israel already has a referendum law. The bill would shield the referendum idea against legal challenges.

Existing law calls for a referendum if the government cedes land under Israeli sovereignty, including east Jerusalem, annexed by Israel after the 1967 Mideast war and claimed by the Palestinians as a capital.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday he'll fast-track the bill to prevent a rift in Israeli society. Critics say a referendum adds an obstacle to the process.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has said he has made progress toward restarting long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.