Coalition partner warns Israeli prime minister over settlements

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 June, 2014, 10:57pm
UPDATED : Monday, 09 June, 2014, 10:57pm

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's strongest coalition partner is threatening to bring down the government if it tries to annex West Bank settlements following the breakdown of peace talks.

Finance Minister Yair Lapid was speaking at the annual Herzliya conference on politics and security. His Yesh Atid party holds the second-greatest number of parliamentary seats after the prime minister's Likud-Yisrael Beitenu alliance.

"If there is any effort to annex even one settlement unilaterally, Yesh Atid will not just leave the government, it will bring it down," Lapid said. Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, the government's chief peace negotiator, said she would also withdraw her party's support if Netanyahu tried to annex any part of the West Bank without Palestinian agreement.

The two coalition partners presented a united front in reaction to a proposal by Economy Minister Naftali Bennett to annex most of the West Bank in phases. While Netanyahu has not adopted the plan, Lapid said the prime minister's push for renewed construction in existing settlements had led to an "unprecedented crisis" in relations with the US.

Bennett said that his proposal came as the idea of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had failed and that "the world will get used to it in time".

Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Middle East war. While the United Nations considers the West Bank illegally occupied territory, Israel maintains it has legitimate claims to the land.