Coalition can pass deal with PA, says PM

Yisrael Beitenu, Shas not as confident as Olmert that settlement can be finalized within a year.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN,
January 1, 2008 23:55
2 minute read.
eli yishai 88 224

eli yishai 88 224. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])

 
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Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is satisfied with the current makeup of his coalition and convinced that he would be able to pass a potential deal with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas without changing it, Olmert said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post. Olmert's statement surprised his coalition partners, Shas and Israel Beiteinu, who were already angry at the prime minister for comments he made to the Post, published Tuesday, in which he spoke about the need to internalize that even Israel's friends on the international stage conceive of the country's future on the basis of the 1967 borders and a divided Jerusalem. Asked if he would bring an agreement with the Palestinians to a referendum or election, Olmert responded that an agreement needed to reflect the will of the people, but that he believed the current Knesset still reflected that will. "I think there is a decisive majority in this Knesset for a diplomatic process," Olmert said. "So we'll see what will be - what kind of agreement we will get to, how, if we will [reach one]. I believe that the decisive majority of Israelis, and a majority in the Knesset, will be able to support an agreement that I will be able to sign." A source close to Shas chairman Eli Yishai said in response that Olmert could not count on Yishai's party, because it would not be a partner in any government that gave up sovereignty in Jerusalem and the holy sites. "The Palestinian Authority's leadership barely has the support of 30 percent of its people, so it's not right to negotiate with them on diplomatic issues," the source said. "Shas will continue to prevent any initiative for a diplomatic process that is disconnected from the Israeli reality. It's too bad that the Palestinian leadership negotiates without revealing its views but the Israeli side is running to make more concessions." Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman said Abbas was a weak leader who did not represent anyone, and therefore any negotiations would lead to a dead end. He said Olmert should be concentrating on ensuring Israel's security and the economic welfare of the Palestinians instead of going to more photo-ops with the Palestinians that would help no one. "Israel Beiteinu opposes withdrawing from settlements - especially in a deal with Abbas, whose people are killing Israelis and who represents the Palestinians like he represents the Norwegians," Lieberman said. The Labor Party, Olmert's largest coalition partner, also appeared not to be in his pocket on Tuesday, when at least four Labor MKs urged party chairman Ehud Barak to keep his promise to remove the party from the coalition upon the publication of the final Winograd Report. MK Danny Yatom, who is close to Barak, announced Tuesday that he would lobby the rest of the faction to support leaving the government. Yatom joined MKs Ophir Paz-Pines, Eitan Cabel and Shelly Yacimovich, who have been vocal for months about the need to leave. Barak will consult with the entire Labor faction one by one after the report's publication to gauge the views on both sides of the matter before making a final decision about the party's future.

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