Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will gather the cabinet in the coming days to approve the renewal of peace negotiations with the Palestinians. The cabinet will also determine whether a future agreement will be subject to a national referendum.
The third decision on the agenda will be to appoint a special ministerial team -- comprising representatives from all the coalition parties -- to approve the release of 85 terrorists imprisoned in Israel since before the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993. The prisoner release would be implemented only after the U.N. General Assembly meeting, and after it is clear that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas does not intend to request recognition of a Palestinian state.
The cabinet meeting will be held before chief negotiators Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Netanyahu's special envoy attorney Yitzhak Molcho depart for Washington. The special session will also address Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett's demand to immediately legislate a national referendum, which would obligate all coalition partners to commit themselves to the new law prior to the signing of a peace deal.
Speaking to the media at the Knesset on Monday, Netanyahu emphasized that he was leading the proposal to bring any future peace agreement to a national referendum.
"Making peace with our neighbors means we must first make peace amongst ourselves," the prime minister said. "The way to ensure peace amongst ourselves is through a national referendum. Soon I will present the finalized bill to the government and then to the Knesset. An agreement that is reached without the approval of the people is not worthy of being signed. A crucial issue that will decide fates needs to be brought before each and every citizen. A national referendum will prevent a national split."
Bennett announced on Monday that if the national referendum law were not legislated he would not support approving the national budget.
"Eight years removed from the disengagement from the Gaza Strip and 20 years since Oslo, I will not lend a hand to Mitsubishi decisions," said Bennett, referencing the incident prior to the signing of the Oslo II Accords in 1995 in which then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin promised then-Tzomet MK Alex Goldfarb a deputy-ministerial position, which came with the perk of a private Mitsubishi car, in return for his vote in favor of the deal. "A national referendum is the only way to prevent the country from tearing apart."
The National Referendum Basic Law proposal will be brought before the Knesset for a preliminary reading -- a move initiated by Coalition Chairman MK Yariv Levin (Likud-Beytenu) and MKs Ayelet Shaked and Orit Struck (Habayit Hayehudi) -- and backed by Netanyahu.
Levin said that an agreement was reached that all government coalition parties would support the Basic Law: National Referendum proposal, due to the coalition parties already committing to supporting the equal burden law and the governance law, which were presented to the Knesset for a first hearing on Monday.
Meanwhile, the U.S. is trying to bring Israeli and Palestinian representatives to Washington in the coming weeks to seek open and direct talks, officials said on Monday.
"We are working on a date for the parties to come to Washington in the coming weeks to move that process along," said White House spokesman Jay Carney.
He noted the enormity of the challenge in seeking an elusive Mideast peace deal, a task that many of Obama's predecessors took on only to find the parties unwilling to strike an agreement.
Seeking peace in the Middle East has been "an enormous challenge for Israelis and Palestinians and for successive administrations here in Washington, but the fact that it has been such a difficult challenge does not mean that it should not constantly be addressed," Carney said.
The Washington talks would include Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and Livni.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, "there are a number of issues that will continue to be discussed between all of the parties" in response to questions about 1967 borders.
She said the State Department expected to have a senior team in place to help manage the process but that no decision had been made on appointing a senior envoy. This is an issue that Kerry is "thinking about and talking about with his senior team," Psaki said.
There has been speculation that the senior envoy role could be filled by Martin Indyk, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel. Psaki called Indyk "a very well-respected professional with a great deal of experience and background" but she would not comment further on the speculation.