As crunch nears, Israeli leaders divided on peace process


As the Israelis and the Palestinians prepare their response to the framework proposed by US Secretary of State John Kerry to renew talks, the Israeli government is split over the basic tenet of a peace solution: the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reiterated his support for a two-state solution in recent months, both in public and in private meetings, but senior members of his cabinet and party are speaking out against it.
Two weeks ago, it was Deputy Defence Minister Danny Danon, an influential Likud member, who said in interviews that the majority of the government and his party were against the two-state solution and that it would be blocked by the coalition.

This week, it was Economics Minister and Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett, who said that the idea of establishing a Palestinian state was “pointless” and that Israel should “go from a situation in which we try to convince people that it is a bad idea, to one in which this idea is behind us”.

Mr Netanyahu did not respond to Mr Bennett, with whom he has a frosty relationship, despite calls from centrist ministers from Yesh Atid and Hatnuah for the prime minister to disassociate himself from the remarks.

Mr Bennett’s positions are not new, of course, but they highlight the problems the government will have if the peace process is relaunched. During the election campaign, Habayit Hayehudi leaders said the party would not leave the government over talks with the Palestinians as they do not believe the talks will lead anywhere.

One result of the divisions in the coalition is the persistent rumour that Labour will replace Habayit Hayehudi in the coalition as negotiations with the Palestinians gather pace.

Labour leader Shelly Yachimovich denied the suggestion, saying that her party would remain in opposition, supporting the prime minister if he decides to pursue talks with the Palestinians and that they would only join the coalition “if we are on the brink of a peace agreement, and I don’t see that happening with Netanyahu”.

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