Centrist who backs peace process is courted by Netanyahu for coalition

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Associated Press

Posted on January 23, 2013 at 4:32 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jan 23 at 5:34 PM

JERUSALEM (AP) — The surprisingly strong showing by a new centrist party in Israel's parliamentary election is raising hopes for a revival of peace talks with the Palestinians.

The talks have languished for four years under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But he was left in a weaker position after yesterday's vote, and he is already courting the leader of the centrist party in hopes of forming a ruling coalition.

The centrist (Yair Lapid) has said he will not sit in the government unless the peace process is restarted.

But it's not clear how hard he will push the issue, during what could be weeks of coalition talks with Netanyahu. The Palestinian issue was largely ignored during the campaign.

Yesterday's election ended in a deadlock. Netanyahu's hard-line bloc and the rival centrist, secular and Arab parties each ended up with 60 seats, according to nearly-final results.

While Netanyahu, as head of the largest single party, is poised to remain prime minister, it appears impossible for him to put together a majority coalition without reaching across the aisle.

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103-r-09-(Sound of of Benjamin Netanyahu supporters, chanting at Likud Party rally)--Sound of Benjamin Netanyahu supporters chanting at Likud Party rally. (23 Jan 2013)

<<CUT *103 (01/23/13)>> 00:09

105-a-14-(Mohammed Ishtayeh, senior adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in AP interview)-"have lived through"-Mohammed Ishtayeh, who's a senior adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, says the makeup of the coalition that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu forms will send a clear message of his intentions. (23 Jan 2013)

<<CUT *105 (01/23/13)>> 00:14 "have lived through"

APPHOTO DV104: Yair Lapid, leader of Yesh Atid party gives a statement outside his home in Tel Aviv, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013. Yesh Atid, or There is a Future, party, turned pre-election forecasts on their heads and dealt Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a sharp political blow. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit) (23 Jan 2013)

<<APPHOTO DV104 (01/23/13)>>

APPHOTO DV101: Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pauses while delivering a statement at his office in Jerusalem, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013. A weakened Netanyahu scrambled Wednesday to keep his job by extending his hand to a new centrist party that advocates a more earnest push on peacemaking with the Palestinians and whose surprisingly strong showing broadsided him with a stunning election deadlock. (AP Photo/Darren Whiteside, Pool) (23 Jan 2013)

<<APPHOTO DV101 (01/23/13)>>

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