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Tuesday Nov. 9, 2010 5:41 PM (EST+7)
Ousted Israel MP vows to work for peace coalition

Read more: Tzachi Hanegbi, Kadima, lawmaker, peace talk, Israeli government, Israeli politics

JERUSALEM, Nov 9 (Ori Lewis/Reuters) - An influential Israeli opposition lawmaker lost his seat in parliament after an eight-year trial on Tuesday but he said he was determined to pursue efforts to revive peace talks with the Palestinians.

Tzachi Hanegbi, a senior member of the centrist Kadima party but also a confidant of Likud prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was convicted of perjury in July.

An additional court ruling on Tuesday said this verdict amounted to moral turpitude. Under Israeli law, this meant that he automatically had to step down from public office.

Hanegbi was often seen as the man most likely to help Netanyahu create a broad government of national unity -- a step that many political analysts believe is needed if Israel is going to strike a peace deal with the Palestinians.

Rumours about the creation of such a coalition often bubble up in the Israeli media and Hanegbi made clear on Tuesday that he would work to this effect, regardless of the court verdict.

The court ruling does not change my belief that a supreme effort must be made to form a unity government, he said.

I am certain that it is not only vital, it is possible. The differences ... can be bridged ... The call of the hour is to form broad national consensus, he told reporters after the court ruling was released.

Tuesday's judgment capped an eight-year trial over political appointments Hanegbi made while he was a cabinet minister. The court ruled he could stand again for parliament in the next general election, currently scheduled for October 2013.

Kadima, Israel's main opposition party, is led by Tzipi Livni, who was the top Israeli negotiator in peace talks with the Palestinians under the previous prime minister, Ehud Olmert.

Kadima is seen as a main alternative coalition option for Netanyahu if he falls out with his present right-wing allies who oppose Israeli concessions to the Palestinians.

Direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks broke down in September almost as soon as they had begun, after Israel refused to accept Palestinian demands that it extend a partial freeze on Jewish settlement building in the occupied West Bank.

Netanyahu's pro-settler allies have said they will quit his government if he backs down on this issue. (Editing by Crispian Balmer and Kevin Liffey)






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