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Liberman would opt for new elections over freeing more prisoners

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said he would prefer to have new elections rather than release more Palestinian prisoners.

Liberman, who is scheduled to meet in Washington with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry later this week, made his remarks in New York at an annual conference sponsored by The Jerusalem Post.

His Yisrael Beiteinu party ran together with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud in last year’s elections.

Following Liberman’s remarks, opposition leader Isaac Herzog called for a new government coalition to be formed featuring his Labor party along with the centrist Yesh Atid and left-leaning Hatnua. Finance Minister Yair Lapid leads Yesh Atid and Tzipi Livni, the justice minister and chief negotiator, heads Hatnua.

Also during his New York address, Liberman called the “release of terrorists” as part of the incentives to convince the Palestinians to remain at the negotiation table past the April 29 deadline “not an option.”

“I support negotiations with the Palestinians. We’re ready for any kind of discussion, not ready for blackmail,” Liberman said, according to The Jerusalem Post.

On April 1, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas applied to join 15 international conventions in defiance of his commitment last year not to seek such recognition until an agreement is in place.

Abbas went ahead with the applications after Israel on March 29 failed to release the final batch of 26 Palestinian prisoners out of 104 it said it would release over nine months in a framework agreement for jump-starting failing Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

On the reported offer by Kerry to free American spy for Israel Jonathan Pollard as an incentive for Israel to release Palestinian prisoners, Liberman called Pollard’s release an “American issue,” but also said he should be freed on “humanitarian grounds,” according to the Post.

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