July 15, 2009 / 8:45 AM / 10 years ago

Israel revives bill that could hamper Golan pullout

JERUSALEM, July 14 (Reuters) - An Israeli cabinet panel has endorsed a bill that would require parliamentary approval or a national referendum before any pullout from occupied Syrian territory, an official said on Tuesday.

The decision could delay any withdrawal as part of a peace agreement. Under current law Israeli governments have sole power to decide the terms of any peace treaty.

It was made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ministerial law committee on Sunday, the day a U.S. envoy arrived in the region with the reported aim of seeking to restart Israeli-Syrian talks.

The official confirmed a report on Israel’s Channel 10 television that the panel had revived a bill that would mandate that any withdrawal be approved by a two-thirds majority of Parliament, or a national referendum.

The measure, dubbed by Israeli media "the Golan Bill" after the strategic plateau captured in the 1967 war, must pass several more votes before it can become law.

"There is still a very long process ahead before this would become law," the official said.

Frederick Hoff, an adviser to U.S. peace envoy George Mitchell, arrived in Israel on Sunday. Officials have declined comment on media reports he was examining ways to renew negotiations between Israel and Syria.

The two countries last held direct talks in 2000 that stalled over the future of the occupied Golan Heights, which Israel annexed in 1981 in a move not recognised internationally.

Israel and Syria held indirect talks with Turkish mediation last year but Syria froze contacts to protest Israel’s war last January in the Gaza Strip.

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