Netanyahu: Even With Lieberman, Israel Seeks to Advance Peace Process With the Palestinians

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Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset.
A file photo showing Yisrael Beiteinu's Avigdor Lieberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset.Credit: Tess Scheflan

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that even after the addition of Yisrael Beiteinu to the coalition and the appointment of party chairman Avigdor Lieberman as defense minister, the government "will continue to strive for a diplomatic process with the Palestinians, aided by regional elements."

The prime minister added that he is personally engaged in the issue and devoting considerable time to it.   

Netanyahu noted that from the government's first day he said he would like to expand it. "A wide a government as possible is the best thing for Israel," he said. "We're at the midst of processes to expand the government. A wider coalition will help us meet the challenges and take advantage of opportunities."

Netanyahu and Lieberman may sign the coalition agreement on Sunday that would bring the latter’s right-wing party into the government.

The negotiating teams are waiting for decisions from the Finance Ministry regarding one of Yisrael Beiteinu’s demands: The funding of a pension program aimed at immigrants from the former Soviet Union, which the parties have already agreed on.

No decision has been made on whether to include the issue of the death penalty for terrorists in the agreement. According to a source involved in negotiations, Lieberman might forego his demand to move ahead legislation for the death penalty, or he may demand that it apply only in military courts.

Lieberman met separately with Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon on Friday to iron out the pensions issue. Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu said any problems can be resolved.

Yisrael Beiteinu's chairman had already relented on all his demands regarding legislation concerning religion and state, so as not to face off against the ultra-Orthodox parties within the coalition. These demands had included a reform of the military draft, of conversion and civil marriage.

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