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Lieberman threatens walkout over ‘core issues

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A key partner in Ehud Olmert’s coalition government threatened to quit if Israeli-Palestinian talks on “core issues” are held.

The right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party issued the threat Sunday after Israeli newspapers reported that Jerusalem was trying to reach a framework for discussing the most sensitive diplomatic disputes 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 reject 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 the Olmert government to fall, as his coalition 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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