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Lapid: Coalition could change for peace talks
By LAHAV HARKOV
09/12/2013
Yesh Atid leader hints that coalition would be better off without Bayit Yehudi in regard to negotiations with the PA.
 
Finance Minister Yair Lapid dropped a political bombshell on Sunday, discussing the importance of peace talks and hinting that the coalition would be better off without Bayit Yehudi.

“It is essential for the market and the country that this government continue, even if continuing in negotiations [with the Palestinians] means the coalition will change in some way,” Lapid said at the Globes Israel Business Conference in Tel Aviv.

Lapid and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett formed a united front in coalition negotiations earlier this year, agreeing to join the government only if both parties did, and were nicknamed “brothers.”

Since then, each party leader has often been careful not to criticize or threaten the other party openly. In recent months, however, there has been increased tension between “the brothers” due to their parties’ divergent ideologies, which reached a peak on Sunday with Lapid’s comments.

“I will do everything, anything to prevent negotiations from failing. I won’t let anyone dissolve the peace process,” Lapid stated.

The Yesh Atid leader warned that without a peace agreement, the economy and foreign relations will be harmed.

According to Lapid, “we cannot continue avoiding the fact that peace has a painful price. The prime minister said he recognizes this price. I believe and hope he has the historic courage necessary to pay that price. That is what he committed to doing when we formed the government, and I do not imagine that he didn’t mean every word.”

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu seemed unimpressed with Lapid’s suggestion to change the coalition, saying after a meeting with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in Herzliya: “We are trying to progress in the peace process, and everyone in the government knows that. Everyone will make his own decisions according to his considerations.

“We are promoting a policy of peace and security and doing the right and responsible thing for the citizens of Israel, not acting under pressure,” Netanyahu added.

A source close to Bennett came out against Lapid, saying that Bayit Yehudi “will continue working to lower the cost of living, including launching the committee on food prices in two days.”

“Cocktails in Oslo interest Israeli citizens much less than food prices,” the source quipped.

Addressing the Globes conference after Lapid, Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel quoted the following Facebook status by Channel 2 political reporter Amit Segal: “Once upon a time, there was a minister named Lapid who led a party and called for a Likud prime minister to change the coalition to promote peace. The prime minister accepted the idea and threw out Lapid, taking in the haredim. The year was 2005. Are the father’s actions a sign for his son?” Segal’s status referred to former justice minister Tommy Lapid, the Shinui party and then-prime minister Ariel Sharon.

“Whoever wants to leave is welcome to, but it won’t be us,” the Bayit Yehudi minister said.

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Labor) welcomed Lapid’s comments, saying the Yesh Atid leader adopted Labor’s stance, and inviting the finance minister to form a pro-peace bloc.

“We can now say with great satisfaction that Labor has successfully created a large political bloc at the center of the map that realizes that returning to agreed-upon borders is the only way for the State of Israel’s future and welfare,” Herzog stated. “Perhaps like this winter, which began with a drizzle, the negotiations will turn into a diplomatic rushing river and bring historic results.”

“I hope Yesh Atid will form the other side of the equation and join us in case Netanyahu tries to avoid negotiations,” the opposition leader said.

Similarly, Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz said Lapid and Bennett’s “brotherhood is unnatural and will fall apart.”

“It is good that Lapid finally realizes his natural place is with the peace camp,” said Peretz. “Hatnua stands for renewing negotiations and working toward a peace treaty. We are glad this process is making the bloc supporting peace in the government more significant.”
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