An ultra-orthodox Jewish man walks near the Dome of the Rock Mosque in Jerusalem's Old City, 22 Nov 2010
An ultra-orthodox Jewish man walks near the Dome of the Rock Mosque in Jerusalem's Old City, 22 Nov 2010

Palestinian and Syrian officials are criticizing a new bill passed by Israel's parliament that would make it difficult for Israel to withdraw from the captured territories of East Jerusalem or the Golan Heights.

The legislation, approved Monday, requires two-thirds of parliament approve any withdrawal from those areas, considered crucial to peace negotiations with the Palestinians and Syrians.

If parliamentary approval is not given, withdrawal from either territory would become subject to a national referendum.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat denounced the measure as "a mockery of international law."  

In a statement Tuesday, the Syrian foreign ministry said the bill "changes nothing" regarding Syria's claim to the Golan Heights.

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria and East Jerusalem from Jordan during the Arab-Israeli Six-Day War in 1967.

David Makovsky, director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, comments on the Israeli legislation:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said a referendum on a future peace deal would prevent an irresponsible agreement and provide strong public support for an accord that will answer Israel's national security interests.

U.S.-mediated direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke down after an Israeli settlement freeze expired in September. Palestinians oppose construction on land they want as part of a future state.

On Tuesday, a senior United Nations official said U.S. efforts to re-start talks had reached a "critical phase."  Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe said the current effort will determine if a resumption of talks is possible. He commented at a U.N. Security Council session on the Middle East.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

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