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Israel may let voters decide West Bank fate

SHARE Israel may let voters decide West Bank fate

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday that Israel was considering holding a nationwide vote to decide the fate of any plan to hand over more of the West Bank to Palestinian rule.

He said a reported attempt by the Palestine Liberation Organ-i-za-tion to have its U.N. status upgraded from observer to something nearing a state was a unilateral act that could deliver a death blow to Middle East peace-making.Under pressure from members of his right-wing and religious coalition, Netanyahu has so far resisted a U.S. proposal to break a 15-month-old peace deadlock and give Palestinians more self-rule.

Some rightist politicians have recommended putting any plan to a national referendum - a move Palestinians have derided as a delaying tactic.

"We are checking the possibility of it, all sorts of various approaches including technological approaches, new ones, some of which have been tried successfully in other parts of the world," Netanyahu told reporters when asked about a possible referendum.

Israeli opposition members have blasted the idea of a referendum as a waste of time and money. Israeli media reported Netanyahu was checking the possibility of a cheaper, faster referendum by phone or mail.

Opinion polls routinely show Israelis favor peace deals but never has an accord been put to a nationwide referendum.

"This issue is just another maneuver, another attempt at gaining time, at creating more obstacles, at avoiding implementation," Palestinian Higher Education Minister Hanan Ashrawi told Reuters.

"One does not have referenda on the implementation of signed agreements," she said.

In answer to reports in Israeli media that Arab states were seeking to upgrade the status of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's PLO in the United Nations, Netanyahu said: "It would be a critical blow to the peace process.