Ben-Eliezer ‘not convinced’ by Mubarak meeting

Trade and labor minister says “I don’t want a photo-op, I want significant advancement in the peace process.”

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
January 7, 2011 01:58
2 minute read.
Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-El

ben eliezer writing 311. (photo credit: Eli Neeman)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu asked Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben- Eliezer to accompany him to his meeting with President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt on Thursday, in an effort to persuade him to stay in the coalition, but Ben-Eliezer’s associates say it didn’t work.

Ben-Eliezer, who is close with the Egyptian leader, joined Netanyahu and Mubarak for lunch.

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But his associates said afterward that he was looking for more content and less pomp and circumstance.

“I don’t want a photo-op, I want significant advancement in the peace process,” Ben-Eliezer told his confidants. “The meeting was positive, but it’s definitely not enough. Talking to Mubarak can help start a process, but it is not the process.”

Ben-Eliezer said that nothing of essence had changed since the beginning of the week when he threatened to lead Labor out of the coalition if the diplomatic process with the Palestinians did not make significant progress soon.

“The only way Bibi will do anything is if we set a date when we could leave the coalition and he believes the threat is real,” Ben-Eliezer said on Monday. “Labor will leave the government within a month or two if there will not be significant progress in the diplomatic process. If the negotiations are advanced, we will support it. But if not, we are out. I will be the first to leave and I will drag the rest of Labor after me.”

A Labor convention was supposed to take place this month to vote on Minorities Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman’s proposal to quit Netanyahu’s coalition if there is no progress in the diplomatic process. But Labor chairman Ehud Barak has refused to allow the convention to meet before March, and a date has not yet been set.

Ben-Eliezer’s support would be essential to pass Braverman’s proposal in the convention and that’s why Netanyahu has taken his threat to support leaving the coalition seriously. The two men met to discuss the diplomatic process at the beginning of the week.

Besides taking Ben-Eliezer with him to Egypt, Netanyahu also accepted his request to allow thousands of Palestinian workers into Israel and invited him to a meeting of the inner security cabinet for the first time on Wednesday.

Ben-Eliezer’s associates said they had no idea whether the invitation was permanent. Vice Premier Silvan Shalom (Likud) also was invited for the first time.


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