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Israel's Labor: We'll quit if no progress to peace

JERUSALEM – The Associated Press | 1/4/2011 12:00:00 AM |

A top leader of Israel's Labor Party threatened to pull out of the government if there is no progress in peace talks, reflecting growing impatience with the stalemate in negotiations with the Palestinians.

A top leader of Israel's Labor Party threatened Monday to pull out of the government if there is no progress in peace talks, reflecting growing impatience with the stalemate in negotiations with the Palestinians.

An exit by Labor, a moderate party sitting uncomfortably alongside hawks in the ruling coalition, could undermine Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's parliamentary majority and force an election. That would sideline Mideast peace efforts for months.

The pullout threat came from Labor Party stalwart Binyamin Ben-Eliezer. "If I see real movement ... in the next month and a half or two months, an entry into negotiations, talks, sitting down, in teams, talking about the core issues ... then the Labor Party will continue to offer support," Ben-Eliezer told Army Radio. "If not, we will be out."

Labor's leader, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, has so far fended off demands to leave the government. On Monday, he bent in the direction of Ben-Eliezer's ultimatum, pledging a party vote within three months about its future in the government. He told party lawmakers the peace process is central to Labor's participation in the coalition, and "it will obligate decisions in due course."

Barak has been the moderate face of Netanyahu's government, taking a prominent role in dealing with the Obama administration in its efforts to restart peace talks.

As prime minister in 2000, Barak offered the Palestinians a state in all of Gaza, more than 90 percent of the West Bank and parts of Jerusalem. Netanyahu has never adopted any of those positions.

The latest round of talks was launched in early September, but broke down just three weeks later in a dispute over Israeli settlements. The Palestinians say there can be no talks if Israel continues to build homes for Jews in settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem - captured lands claimed by the Palestinians.

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