March 8, 2014
Netanyahu partner urges Palestine peace deal
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's main coalition partner publicly prodded him to show "historic courage" and reach a peace deal with the Palestinians even at the risk of his government's collapse.
Finance Minister Yair Lapid reassured Netanyahu of his centrist Yesh Atid party's support and spoke of possible changes in the coalition - a nod to any future exit of far-right factions and their replacement by left-wing partners - should a land-for-peace agreement be achieved.
"I'm determined to do everything within my power to ensure that this government stays the course - even if developments in the peace negotiations necessitate a coalition realignment of one kind or another," Lapid said.
But he also appeared to issue a warning to Netanyahu, reiterating that Yesh Atid, which has 19 legislators in the 120-member parliament and is the second-biggest party in the coalition, would not remain in a government that did not genuinely pursue a negotiated settlement.
"I am not ready to have Yesh Atid serve as a fig leaf for pointless political manoeuvring," Lapid told an economic conference.
Speaking two days after meeting US Secretary of State John Kerry who was on a visit to the region, Lapid gave no indication that US-brokered peace talks, which began in July with a nine-month timeframe for success, were making progress.
But he said that accepting a narrative, voiced by opponents of a deal on both sides of the conflict, that nothing would come of the negotiations could turn into a self-fulfilling prophesy and destroy chances for an accord.
"We cannot continue pretending that peace does not involve paying a price - a heavy, painful, national and political price that both signatories of the peace agreement will be forced to bear," Lapid said.
"The prime minister has declared that he is aware of this price and of the notion that the only solution on the table is the implementation of the principle of two states for two peoples. I sincerely hope that he exhibits the kind of historic courage required to pay this price," he said of Netanyahu.