Monday, April 07, 2014

If peace talks fail, what next for coalition?

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Lieberman: I would prefer new elections over the release of more terrorists • Opposition leader calls on Yesh Atid and Hatnuah to leave government • Likud official: No coalition parties have interest in elections right now.

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Lieberman in New York on Sunday
Photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem / The Jerusalem Post
The crisis in the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians has shaken up the Israeli political scene. The stability of the governing coalition has once again come into question, with Yisrael Beytenu's leader, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, saying on Sunday that he would prefer new elections over the release of more terrorists, and Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog (Labor) calling for the formation of a new government comprised of the Left and haredi parties without holding new elections.
Speaking at the Jerusalem Post Conference in New York on Sunday, Lieberman said the Palestinians' unilateral steps toward U.N. recognition were akin to blackmail

"We cannot return to this kind of arrangement whereby we release terrorists to keep the talks with the Palestinians going, considering the moves they have made recently," he said. "I think that the maintenance of relations between us and the Palestinians is very important. We are sincere and are ready for any kinds of discussions, but we are not ready for blackmail."

Lieberman said that Israel has three options: The first is to release terrorists as part of a "package deal," the second is to form a new coalition, and the third option is go to elections.
"In our [Yisrael Beytenu] position, it is impossible to go back to the package deal and release terrorists. The second choice is also not an option for us. To clarify our position, we would prefer new elections," Lieberman said.
Lieberman later told Channel 2 news that he is willing to continue negotiations with the Palestinians if they withdraw their applications to U.N. organizations and go back to square one, discussing the release of prisoners.
The foreign minister's statements did not go unnoticed in the Knesset.
"There is a coalition for peace in this Knesset. It could be with the haredim, with [Yesh Atid leader Yair] Lapid, with [Hatnuah leader] Tzipi Livni and with all those who understand that we have no choice but to go for peace," Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog (Labor) said Sunday night.
Herzog placed the blame for the apparent breakdown of the negotiations on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"You cannot conduct negotiations with zero faith," Herzog said. "You cannot do anything when you have [Habayit Hayehudi MK] Uri Ariel. Listening to Uri Ariel, you see that a small percentage of the population is imposing its beliefs on the rest. In light of this, the government's failures in every field, new elections are not a threat but new hope."
Herzog also made reference to Lieberman's statements in New York.
"Lieberman took off the mask and returned to his old role, and, in light of this, I expect Lapid and Livni to draw the necessary conclusion and leave this coalition," Herzog said.
With the negotiations with the Palestinians all but collapsed, the threat to the coalition's stability is no longer coming from its right-wing parties, but centrist parties Hatnuah and Yesh Atid.
Despite the tensions within the coalition, it is believed that a solution will be found to preserve the current government. Lapid has already stated that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas would be responsible if the talks fail.
"The real danger is abandoning Israel's security by giving major concessions for nothing in return," one Likud official said. "This is also the real danger to the coalition's stability. Though, at the current juncture, no one in the government has any interest in going to elections, which is why even the semblance of negotiations is enough to keep the coalition intact."
Hatnuah MK Amram Mitzna said his party "would allow the government to renew negotiations until the end of the month. If nothing happens, Hatnuah will leave the government."
Aside from Herzog, other left-wing MKs also criticized the government.
"With a little creativity, the Israeli leadership could see that there are a few more than three options [proposed by Lieberman], but Lieberman says he does not accept the first two, so it looks like the government has no chance for pushing forward the peace talks and go to elections," Labor MK Omer Bar-Lev said.
"Lieberman, in his statements, exposes the rejectionist face of Israel's government," Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On said. "When he supported the fourth stage of the prisoner release in the cabinet, he knew it included terrorist prisoners as well. Now it turns out he has violated his pledges and is a serial rejectionist. Maybe we really should go to elections and get rid of this bad government."
The Knesset plenum was set to meet Monday morning to discuss the crisis in the peace negotiations and the government's failure to secure Jonathan Pollard's release. The plenum was called by Meretz.

No comments: