Bringing Yisrael Beytenu into gov’t won’t impact talks with PA

May 22, 2016  

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu began the weekly government cabinet meeting by defending efforts to expand the coalition, stating that the inclusion of the Yisrael Beytenu party will not impact on the government’s diplomatic efforts vis-a-vis the Palestinian Authority.

“From the beginning, when we established the government, I said that my intention was to expand the government,” Netanyahu said. “61 [the government’s current narrow majority of one – ed.] is better than 59, but a government which is as wide as possible is an important thing for the State of Israel.”

Emphasizing that talks were still “underway”, the PM added that a “wider coalition” would enable the government to better deal with the wider range of challenges facing the country.

He further emphasized that the secular-nationalist party’s inclusion into the coalition would not alter the government’s commitment to engage in direct talks with the Palestinian Authority, despite Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman’s critical views on the matter.

“The expanded government will continue to return to a political process with the Palestinians, and it will do this with the help of regional actors,” Netanyahu stated, in an apparent reference to recent remarks by Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi. “I personally have considered this a lot, and I intend to continue to do so.”

In attacking Netanyahu and abandoning his own party’s coalition talks, opposition leader Yitzhak Herzog – who heads the leftist Zionist Union party – scolded the PM for, in his words, wasting a historic opportunity offered by Sisi, instead opting for a government of the “far-right.”

It has since been revealed that Sisi – along with western leaders including former Quartet Middle East envoy Tony Blair – had helped engineered “unity government” talks between Netanyahu and Herzog, in a bid to install a more compliant Israeli government.

Netanyahu also hailed news that the controversial natural gas deal looked likely to finally pass.

“The government will approve the altered gas deal. The new deal incorporates within it the comments we received from the Supreme Court,” he said.

“At this point, the most important thing is not to delay, to advance and promote the issue. I think that this is a historic step for Israel’s economy and its citizens.”

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