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Palestinian leader reaches out to Israel centrists

RAMALLAH, West Bank — The Palestinian president wants to meet with newly elected Israeli parliament members to lay out his views on peace, hoping a political surge of centrists will provide an opening to resume long-stalled negotiations on a Palestinian state, a senior aide said Thursday.

President Mahmoud Abbas' main target appears to be Yair Lapid, leader of the moderate Yesh Atid (There is a Future) party, who is expected to be influential in setting the priorities of the next government.

Lapid has said he wants Israel to make a serious push for peace, though it is unclear how far he will press the issue in coalition negotiations with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In recent public appearances, he has barely breached the issue, focusing instead on domestic economic concerns.

In elections this week, Lapid's party emerged as the second largest with 19 of 120 seats in parliament, after Netanyahu's right-wing Likud-Yisrael Beitenu bloc that won 31 seats.

Netanyahu will keep his job, but will have to bring other parties into his government to win a parliamentary majority, and Lapid's faction is seen as key to any stable coalition.

Netanyahu and Lapid met Thursday, two days after the election, though formal coalition negotiations will start next week, and could take up to six weeks.

Palestinian leader reaches out to Israel centrists 01/24/13 [Last modified: Thursday, January 24, 2013 9:26pm]
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