Yesh Atid will leave Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition if negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians end and there is no diplomatic process taking place, party leader Yair Lapid said in closed conversations Tuesday.
Officials in Yesh Atid confirmed a Channel 10 report that past commitments Lapid made, in which he said he would remove his party from the coalition if there were no peace talks, applied to the situation that could arise in the coming days.
The officials said the threat to leave was serious but not immediate.
“It is not as if we will leave the day after talks break down,” a Yesh Atid official said.
Netanyahu’s coalition is facing threats from both Yesh Atid and Hatnua on the Left if negotiations with the Palestinians end, and from Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett if Israeli-Arab prisoners are released in a deal to extend the talks.
But Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman downplayed Bennett’s threats Tuesday at a press briefing with his Austrian counterpart, Sebastian Kurz.
“There is no chance Bayit Yehudi will quit the coalition,” Liberman said. “Don’t take Bennett’s threats too seriously.”
In a sign that efforts are being made to keep Bayit Yehudi in the coalition, the party’s number two, Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel, welcomed the possibility that Israeli- Arabs released could be expelled from Israel and have their citizenship revoked. Ariel made this comment during a speech in Ramle.
At the same event, Bennett dismissed the threat by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to dismantle the PA, saying Abbas had issued the same threat on six previous occasions.
“We hear the same threats recycled again and again that if we don’t give him everything he wants, oy vey for us,” he said. “What is he threatening? Dismantling an authority that incites for terrorism, violates the Oslo Accords, that pays stipends to murderers of Jews? Israel is stronger than his threats.”
Transportation Minister Israel Katz (Likud) said that if the PA is dismantled, Israel should arrest PA leaders and MKs who have been in contact with them. He added that Israel should also prevent Palestinian VIPs from traveling between the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Meretz leader Zehava Gal- On called upon Netanyahu to accept Abbas’s invitation to meet with him to decide the final borders of Israel and a Palestinian state.
“The prime minister should stop his political maneuvers to distract the public and pin the blame for the end of the talks on the Palestinians,” Gal-On said. “He should adopt Abbas’s framework, including releasing the fourth round of prisoners, freezing settlement construction and setting borders.”