Olmert courts Lieberman over walkout threat

Ehud Olmert tried to talk a key partner in Israel’s coalition government out of quitting over negotiations with the Palestinians.

The Israeli prime minister met Tuesday with Avigdor Lieberman, who has threatened to take his right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party out of the government since Jerusalem began talks with the Palestinian Authority on “core” peacemaking issues such as the future status of the capital.

Should Lieberman bolt, as many political analysts expect, it would not immediately topple the government since Olmert’s coalition would still command 67 of the Knesset’s 120 seats.

But a walkout by Yisrael Beiteinu might precipitate similar action by Shas, another right-wing party. That would potentially force Olmert to look to left-wing replacements at a time when he needs to persuade Israeli hard-liners that he is tough enough to deal with Palestinian security threats.

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