Olmert partner threatens walkout over PA talks

A key partner in Ehud Olmert’s coalition government threatened to quit if there are Israeli-Palestinian talks on the most sensitive diplomatic disputes.

The threat by the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party came Sunday after Israeli newspapers reported that Jerusalem was trying to reach a framework for discussing so-called “core issues” with the Palestinian Authority ahead of President Bush’s visit this week.

Core issues refer to disputes about Jerusalem, borders and refugees, all of which have been considered too touchy to broach until now. Yisrael Beiteinu has been especially forthright in demanding that Israel turn down the Palestinians’ demand for Jerusalem to become a shared capital of the Jewish state and a future Palestine.

“If negotiations begin about the core issues, we will not be part of the government,” Yisrael Beiteinu’s leader, Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman, told Israel Radio.

The loss of Yisrael Beiteinu would not cause Olmert to fall, as his government would still command a parliamentary majority. But that could change if other right-wing parties in the coalition were to follow Lieberman’s lead and leave.

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