lieberman leaving 224 88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Israeli Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman announced on Wednesday that the party would quit the government due to the commencement of talks on core issues such as Jerusalem, the refugees and the contours of a future Palestinian state.
After Israel Beiteinu's 11 MKs leave the government, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's coalition will number only 67 MKs and will be propped up on Shas, which has also threatened to leave the coalition.
"I want to thank Ehud Olmert for his candor, we have always been open with one another," Lieberman said at a press conference on Wednesday morning. "It was obvious that we would not agree on fundamental issues."
"Approximately a week before [the] Annapolis [conference] we put out a document [with our] red lines. We delineated in the clearest possible fashion what we are willing to abide with and what we cannot [accept]. Two days before Annapolis, I met with Olmert in his home and reiterated our red lines."
Core issues are a critical point for Israel Beiteinu, which does not believe that the territories and the unauthorized outposts are at the root of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, Lieberman said. "Any negotiation on the basis of land for peace is an inexplicable mistake."
Lieberman also addressed rumors circulating on whether his party will run together with Likud in the next elections, "There is almost no chance of us running together with the Likud. Although in politics 'never say never' but in my opinion it is nearly a zero percent chance."
"Our problem is with MK Ahmed Tibi and MK Muhammad Barakei. They are more dangerous for the state of Israel than Khaled Mashaal and Nasrallah. They are working systematically from within the state in order to destroy it as a Jewish and Zionist state," he said.
"The prime minister received [Lieberman's] resignation," Olmert's office announced in a statement. "The prime minister wants to thank minister Lieberman for his service to the government and his contribution to a series of steps the government took in partnership with him on socioeconomic and security issues."
"The prime minister told him time and time again that there is no alternative to serious diplomatic negotiations in an effort to achieve peace. This is the task of the hour and a national responsibility.
"Any concession the government makes will be conditional on maintaining Israeli security. The government's diplomatic steps unfortunately led to disagreements with Lieberman and his party. The prime minister is determined to continue diplomatic negotiations because he recognizes that this is the only real chance to guarantee peace and security for the citizens of Israel."
Peace Now head Yariv Oppenheimer expressed jubilation over Lieberman's decision. "Good riddance to Lieberman, who posed a strategic threat to the peace process," he said, alluding to the position Lieberman is vacating at the Strategic Affairs Ministry. "The prime minister is now all out of excuses and he must take action to remove outposts, freeze settlements and proceed with the peace process at a redoubled pace."
Lieberman said that in his meeting with Olmert on Tuesday, he did not receive the reassurances he had hoped for that the talks with the Palestinians were not serious. Olmert said he intended to pursue a deal on every issue, including the most controversial.
"There was no give and take in the meeting," a source close to Olmert said when asked if the prime minister tried to convince Lieberman to stay. "He told Lieberman he would negotiate seriously on all the issues necessary to reach an agreement."
Asked about the apparent change in Shas's position on Jerusalem negotiations, the source close to Olmert said the prime minister "had not received such an ultimatum."
Israel Radio reported Tuesday that US President George W. Bush told Lieberman at Thursday's dinner at Olmert's residence that he wouldn't let a Palestinian state be formed while he was president, because it would endanger Israel's security. According to the report, Bush told Lieberman that it would endanger Israel's security if a Palestinian state was created before all of the stages of the road map were implemented.