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Israel's Yesh Atid lays out stance on peace talks

Yesh Atid will not join any government that rejects talks with the Palestinians, the head of the Israeli new centrist party says

AFP , Wednesday 31 Oct 2012
Former television anchorman Yair Lapid of Israel, head of the new centrist party Yesh Atid, delivers a speech in the Ariel college of Judea and Samaria in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Ariel, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012 (Photo: AP)
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Israel's Yesh Atid will not join any coalition government that does not hold talks with the Palestinians, its leader said in a speech laying out the new party's stance on negotiations ahead of a January general election.

Details of Yair Lapid's speech, in which he outlined his stance on foreign policy issues, were published in Wednesday's newspapers, with commentators saying his remarks placed his newly formed party in the political centre.

"Yesh Atid will not join a government that will not conduct diplomatic negotiations," he said, according to an account of his remarks in the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper.

"You don't come to negotiations only with an olive branch, the way the left does, or only with a gun, the way the right does," he said in a speech delivered in the sprawling Ariel settlement deep in the West Bank.

"You come to find a solution. We're not looking for a happy marriage with the Palestinians, but for a divorce agreement we can live with."

Lapid, a former popular TV anchor, registered Yesh Atid in late April but until now, has largely declined to spell out the party's stance on diplomacy or foreign policy issues.

Recent polls suggest the party, whose name means "There is a future," is likely to pick up between nine and 13 seats in the 120-member parliament.

He said the Palestinians would have to recognise that the large settlement blocs of Ariel, Gush Etzion and Maaleh Adumim would remain within Israel, but said there would be no new construction during negotiations, other than to accommodate natural growth in existing settlements.

The claim by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who heads the ruling rightwing Likud party, that "there is no partner" for peace was an attempt to evade reality, Lapid said.

"The only thing the no-partner policy has done is to weaken Israel's position in the international arena and to strengthen Hamas," he charged, referring to the Islamist rival of the Western-backed Palestinian Authority headed by president Mahmud Abbas.

Direct peace talks have been on hold for more than two years, with Abbas refusing to negotiate as long as Israel continues to build and approve new Jewish settlements.

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