Israeli coalition under threat over peace talks deadlock
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Last Updated: Monday, January 03, 2011, 23:56
Jerusalem: The deadlock in the Middle East peace efforts may threaten Israel's ruling coalition, with key ministers of the Labour Party warning to withdraw support to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government unless there is progress in negotiations with the Palestinians.

Three Labour ministers, Avishay Braverman, Isaac Herzog and Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, called on the party Chairman and Defence Minister Ehud Barak to issue the ultimatum to Netanyahu.

"The time has come for us to stand up for ourselves and speak clearly," he said, adding, "If we don't do so, Netanyahu will remain tied to the right-wing forum of seven and will submit daily to the extortion of Shas (party)and of Avigdor Lieberman (ultra-nationalist foreign minister) on every significant matter," he said.

They threatened yesterday to withdraw support to Netanyahu unless there is a progress in peace talks with the Palestinians.

A very stormy meeting is expected today when the lawmakers of the party get together.

Direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians, the first for nearly two years, began on September 2 but stalled just three weeks later when a 10-month Israeli settlement-building freeze expired and Netanyahu refused to renew it.

Braverman, who serves as Minister of Minority Affairs, called on Barak to hold a Labour Party convention immediately, which would vote to send the warning to the government.

"Our time has come to impose an ultimatum," Braverman underlined.

The senior ministers' threat comes in the wake of a Ha'aretz report yesterday that the White House and the US State Department are furious with Barak over the stalled peace talks.

The Israeli Defence Minister is said to have misled officials in the US administration regarding his ability to convince the Netanyahu government to move the peace process forward.

However, US State Department spokesman, Philip J. Crowley, said yesterday in Washington that the administration would continue working with Barak.

"We have tremendous respect for Minister Barak and he remains a main channel of communication between the U.S and Israel," Crowley said.

"We will continue working with him on a full range of issues of mutual interest for both countries," he said, but several other administration officials are reported to have conveyed to Ha'aretz the administration's disappointment with Barak.

Industry, Trade and Labour Minister, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, suggested to give the government until April a chance before the Labour Party quits.

"If there is no political progress within several months, we have to quit the government," he said.

Social Affairs Minister, Isaac Herzog, who also supports the ultimatum, said Netanyahu "must understand that his government is in danger."


First Published: Monday, January 03, 2011, 23:56

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