Coalition gives PM maneuvering room

Partners poised to commit to deliver no ultimatums over negotiations.

May 4, 2010 01:43
2 minute read.
PM Binyamin Netanyahu walks through the Knesset

Netanyahu, Knesset 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

As Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu braced for proximity talks set to begin on Wednesday, key coalition members promised on Monday night that the government would give him “substantial room for negotiations” with the Palestinians.

Shas and Israel Beiteinu were poised to allow the prime minister to negotiate freely without delivering coalition ultimatums, while coalition members emphasized that the prime minister’s biggest challenges were likely to come from the ranks of his own party.

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But following his victory in the Likud procedural vote last Thursday, support for the prime minister ran high among Likud ministers, with few – if any – willing to cramp the prime minister’s negotiating space. Some, including Public Affairs Minister Michael Eitan, have been consistent in their open support for negotiations and the two-state solution, while others have simply reined in their criticism in recent days.

“Netanyahu will receive a lot of room as he goes into negotiations,” one senior coalition member told The Jerusalem Post Monday. “The government will look for what the Palestinians are putting forward. If they are serious about stopping incitement, for instance, and dealing with the big issues, there could be a breakthrough.”

The official added that “Netanyahu has not received any specific red lines from the government. We’re giving him space for the negotiations, but of course with the understanding that any decisions will necessarily come before the government for approval.”

Meanwhile, during the Labor faction meeting Monday afternoon, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that he would be willing to expand the current coalition to advance a peace deal.

“If it becomes clear to us that in order to achieve the necessary advancement in the peace process, we need to widen the government, we will seriously and responsibly consider doing so,” Barak told Labor faction members. “The matter of advancing the process itself justifies every effort, even if that includes expanding the government.”

Barak told Labor members about his recent visit to the United States, during which, he said, he had worked to prepare the ground for the preliminary talks set to begin on Wednesday.

“I believe and hope that the talks will lead to direct talks, in which all of the key issues will be discussed in an effort to move the process forward,” said Barak. “I tried as much as I could to act to generate wider and deeper understanding regarding our stance and for understanding that the government is committed to moving the process forward, and to trying all of the possibilities.”

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