Coalition strengthened by Netanyahu-Obama meeting

Barak: End of freeze doesn’t mean end of talks.

cabinet meeting barak 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
cabinet meeting barak 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Labor Party will have a much easier time remaining in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s coalition if US President Barack Obama succeeds in his goal of bringing the Palestinian Authority to the negotiating table, top Labor officials said on Wednesday.
Both Labor chairman Ehud Barak and his critics in the party expressed satisfaction with Netanyahu and Obama’s press conference at the White House on Tuesday. They expressed hope that the meeting would lead to Israeli-Palestinian talks that would begin before the 10-month West Bank housing-start moratorium ends in September and would make enough progress to prevent the resumption of construction from derailing the talks.
“We have started on the path,” Barak said in radio interviews. “If direct talks begin, we will be in a much better position to handle the obstacles ahead. We shouldn’t lose hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel and we are entering a significant diplomatic process.
“You have to assume that what happened in Washington was more than just a nice photo-op but the start of a diplomatic process that can succeed.”
Barak suggested that just as Israel was able to negotiate with the Palestinians despite ongoing West Bank construction for 16 years, the construction that Netanyahu says will resume on September 26 does not have to hurt the negotiations.
“When direct diplomatic talks are taking place, everything else is put in the proper proportion,” he said.
Before Tuesday’s meeting at the White House, Labor ministers had threatened to quit the coalition if West Bank construction resumed, because they believed it would prevent the talks with the PA from getting off the ground. The ministers said that Tuesday’s press conference convinced them otherwise.
“If there is a significant diplomatic process, we are staying in the government, because that’s why we’re there,” Minorities Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman said. “I saw the positive atmosphere yesterday. Now I want to see action.”
At the request of Labor MK Ghaleb Majadle, who heads the party’s Arabsector, Labor will hold a party convention in the first week ofSeptember to discuss its diplomatic plans and its future in thecoalition.
Majadle said he agreed to hold the convention during Ramadan, whichthis year runs from August 11 to September 9, give or take a day,because of the urgency of the event.
“The convention should put pressure on Netanyahu that balances out thepressure from the Right to end the freeze,” Majadle said. “I amoptimistic that Bibi and Barak realize the diplomatic process mustadvance. But if they fail to do it, we won’t remain part of thegovernment.”
Coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin said the future of the current coalitiondepended on whether the Palestinians come to the negotiating table. Hesaid that if the Palestinians want Labor to stay in the coalition andthe diplomatic process to be able to progress, then they should enterinto direct talks. But he stressed that if Labor left, the governmentwould go on, with the addition of the National Union or at least partof Kadima.