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Barak: Israeli coalition difficult to predict

By CNN staff
updated 8:02 AM EST, Thu January 24, 2013
  • Ehud Barak says the effect of the Israeli elections on the peace process is unclear
  • Netanyahu's right-wing bloc has a weakened position after a strong showing from centrists
  • Barak said the left had "not enough courage of conviction" to push for peace

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story contained an incorrect quote from Ehud Barak.

Talking about whether the outcome of coalition negotiations would affect Israel's position on Iran's nuclear program, the story incorrectly quoted Barak as saying: "The capacity of Israel to take the lead, even kind of independently, is something that has never been even contemplated, and should not be."

Barak actually said: "The capacity of Israel to act if necessary, even kind of independently, is something that has never been removed from the table and should not be removed from the table."

We apologize for the error.

Davos, Switzerland (CNN) -- Veteran Israeli politician Ehud Barak says the outcome of the Israel elections are so surprising it is hard to predict the outcome of coalition negotiations.

It remains to be seen whether a new Israeli government will have the political capital to push for a peace deal with Palestinians, he added.

"It's too early to tell," the outgoing deputy prime minister told CNN's Richard Quest at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

"You know, there's a challenge here," he said. "I personally believe, and I believe the people of my generation strongly believe, that we have to find a way to continue the political process."

Opinion: Split vote offers options to Israeli leaders

Netanyahu's mixed victory in Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to lead the new government, but has emerged from the election in a weakened position, following a surprisingly strong showing by centrists.

TV exit polls reported that Netanyahu's right-wing Likud Beitenu alliance won between 31 and 33 Knesset seats, more than any other party -- but substantially less than the bloc held in the previous Knesset.

In unexpected outcome, the centrist Yesh Atid party, which campaigned on a platform of helping the middle class and halting military draft exemptions for ultra-Orthodox civilians, came in second place with at least 18 seats, according to exit polls.

The hard-right Jewish Home, led by the charismatic Naftali Bennett, won between 11 and 12 seats.

Barak, a former prime minister who served as Defence Minister in Netanyahu's government, said was premature to say whether the results would help or hinder the prospects of peace.

"There is a strong feeling with the right ... and there is now not enough courage of conviction on the left side that we have to impose it as reality upon the ...indifference of the party," he said.

"I still believe [peace] is possible someday," he said. "We have to find a way strengthen, to motivate part of the Palestinians, maybe [Palestinian Prime Minister Salam] Fayyad, that want to help build a future empathy."

Netanyahu dips into centrists' playbook for Israel's new government

He said the strength of the next government would depend on what sort of support Netanyahu was able to muster.

"If you establish a right unity government, you create an effective platform to make ... decisions because you have wider support of your own party," he said.

But the result would have no bearing on Israel's ability to adopt a forceful position against Iran's nuclear program.

"The capacity of Israel to act if necessary, even kind of independently, is something that has never been removed from the table and should not be removed from the table."

Barak has said he is leaving politics, and told CNN he would not accept a post in the new government.

"I have already told the public and the prime minister -- many people do not believe, but I don't see a reason for this -- that I'm not going to join. I'm going to leave political life for at least the next five years."

But, he continued, "you never say never." "I cannot refuse to contemplate it, but I don't believe that I'm going to."

Yair Lapid, Israel's man of the 'future'

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