Bennett threatens coalition crisis over talks on 1967 lines

Bayit Yehudi sources say the Economy and Trade Minister "had to reassure constituency that he has red lines".

Bennett pointing 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Bennett pointing 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett issued on Thursday his first-ever threat to take his Bayit Yehudi party out of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s coalition, amid rumors of imminent negotiations with the Palestinians based on pre- 1967 lines.
Bennett had previously stated on countless occasions that he had no problem with there being negotiations with the Palestinians, because he did not believe that they would accomplish anything.
In issuing his threat on Thursday, he added a condition to his previous statements that he would not leave the government over the initiation of talks.
“Bayit Yehudi under my leadership will not be a partner, even for a second, in a government that agrees to negotiate on the basis of the 1967 lines,” he said. “Our capital Jerusalem is not and never will be negotiated.”
Bennett issued the threat even though he knew that Netanyahu had denied a Reuters report that he had agreed to American understandings that 1967 lines would be the basis for talks.
Sources in Bayit Yehudi said that despite Netanyahu’s denial, Bennett could not ignore that the armistice lines were on the agenda.
“Naftali had to reassure his constituency that he has red lines,” a source close to Bennett said. “He had to make his position clear, in case someone believes he would actually be a part of a government that would negotiate on that basis.”
Hours before Bennett issued his threat, opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich again pledged her Labor Party’s support for Netanyahu’s peace efforts in the event that Bayit Yehudi would threaten to leave the government.
“We will grant you a strong and effective safety net if you encounter political difficulties from your current allies,” she wrote to the prime minister.
Yacimovich wrote that the European Union decision to deny funding to Israeli business, academic and cultural projects based in Jewish settlements in the West Bank was “a painful reminder” of the need to abandon Israel’s “passivity” as it relates to its attitude toward peace.
“The EU document is a painful reminder of the strategic, economic and security dangers inherent in a diplomatic stalemate,” she said. “It would be an abdication of responsibility and a demonstration of a lack of leadership to continue with this passivity and to respond to events instead of initiating them.”
Labor’s secretary-general, MK Hilik Bar, also wrote to Netanyahu on Thursday, urging him to react to the EU decision by adopting his “Two States Bill,” which calls for the final status of the West Bank to be determined as part of a peace agreement leading to a two-state solution and not by annexation.
“We must adjust to the EU’s unfortunate decision and internalize that it expresses mistrust in Israel’s intentions to advance the diplomatic process,” Bar wrote to Netanyahu. “That is why I am writing you to urge you to support the bill, whose goal is to support your efforts [to restart diplomatic talks].”