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Israeli lawmaker: domestic issues must be priority


JERUSALEM (AP) — A top ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recommended Thursday that the next Israeli government sideline the polarizing issue of Mideast peacemaking in favor of domestic matters, in order to avoid political paralysis.

The hard-line Netanyahu was badly weakened in Tuesday’s election, which ended in a deadlock between a hawkish, religious bloc and a camp of centrist, secular and Arab parties. While Netanyahu, as head of the largest single party in parliament, appears set to remain prime minister, he can’t put together a stable coalition without drawing in both hawks and moderates.

His top partner is likely to be Yesh Atid, a new party with moderate views on peacemaking that has emerged as Israel’s new power broker. Parliament’s No. 4 party appears to be the pro-settler Jewish Home, which opposes the establishment of a Palestinian state and even wants to annex West Bank land claimed by the Palestinians.

Lawmaker Avigdor Lieberman told Israel Radio on Thursday that the next government must focus on domestic issues because they could serve as a common denominator tying together parties with divergent views.

"If we want to founder from the outset, and embark upon endless internal struggles, then make foreign policy the top priority," he said.

"If we want the government to be effective and accomplish things, and leave a strong, significant imprint, I think everyone understands the need for domestic changes is dramatic, and that is the order of the day. So leave the foreign issues aside," Lieberman said.

Lieberman’s ultranationalist Yisrael Beitenu party teamed up on a joint list with Netanyahu’s Likud for Tuesday’s election.

Netanyahu has hinted that is the direction he will take in the two statements he has given since the election. Both statements have focused on the need to build a broad coalition to address pressing domestic issues, including the high cost of living.

Peace talks reached an impasse before Netanyahu came into office four years ago and never resumed in earnest. The main obstacle during his tenure has been continued construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. The Palestinians claim both areas, captured by Israel in 1967, for the heart of a future state and refuse to negotiate while the construction continues.

Netanyahu rejects that demand.

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