Israeli groups seeks referendum on Palestinians

JERUSALEM (AP) " A group of former Israeli politicians, security officials, artists and social activists on Monday urged the government to hold a national referendum on the future of the Palestinian territories.

The group launched the campaign ahead of the 50th anniversary next year of the 1967 Mideast war, in which Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip.

The Palestinians seek to establish an independent state in the territories. Two decades of on-again, off-again peace efforts have repeatedly failed.

The Israeli group, calling itself "Decision at 50," is led by prominent figures in Israel's so-called peace camp, which believes an Israeli withdrawal from occupied lands is essential for the country's survival.

They believe that establishment of a Palestinian state will ensure Israel's future as a democracy with a solid Jewish majority. The alternative, they say, is a "binational" state in which Israel either risks losing its Jewish majority or ruling over millions of disenfranchised Palestinians in an apartheid-style situation.

The group's founders include Ami Ayalon, a former head of the Shin Bet internal security agency, Amram Mitzna, a retired general, and Gilead Sher, who was a peace negotiator under former Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

The group said it sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asking to hold the referendum. Netanyahu himself has endorsed the idea of a Palestinian state. But peace efforts have remained frozen throughout most of his seven-year tenure amid wide gaps with the Palestinians over all major issues.

"Every day in which our control over the Palestinian territories persists brings us closer to the end of Israel as the democratic state of the Jewish people," Ayalon said. "Netanyahu sees the disaster ahead, but he is not courageous enough to act."

Netanyahu's office declined comment.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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