In a speech at the Globes Israel Business Conference on Sunday, Finance Minister Yair Lapid warned that a failure of the current peace talks with the Palestinians would endanger Israel's future.
"I won't let anyone dissolve the peace process," Lapid said, in an apparent reference to Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett.
Lapid, the head of the centrist Yesh Atid party, formed an alliance with Bennett after last January's Knesset election, but Lapid's speech on Sunday may be an indicator that their partnership is splintering. Bennett and his right-wing party strongly oppose a two-state solution as the conflict with the Palestinians.
"The economic and social steps we've taken in recent months need time to mature and bear fruit," Lapid said.
"It is vital to the economy and the country that this government continues to function in its role, even if progress in the negotiations [with the Palestinians] requires coalition changes of one kind or another. If both the Left and the Right continue to say that nothing will come of [the negotiations], this may become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I will do everything in my power to prevent the failure of the negotiations. We cannot continue pretending that peace does not involve paying a price -- a heavy, painful, national and political price that both signatories of the peace agreement will be forced to bear.
"[Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] has declared that he is aware of this price and of the notion that the only solution on the table is the implementation of the principle of two states for two peoples. I sincerely hope that he exhibits the kind of historic courage required to pay this price.
"We must make every effort to reach an agreement, because the current situation endangers Israel's future. If we want to live as a Jewish state, we must separate from [the Palestinians]. It's not a marriage we're seeking, but rather a divorce."
In response to Lapid's speech, Netanyahu released a statement, saying: "We are trying to advance a process of peace and security. I think that everyone who is part of the government knows this and everyone can make decisions according to their considerations. We are promoting a policy of peace and security with the full knowledge that we are doing the right and responsible thing for the security of Israel's citizens. We will not deviate from that under any pressure of one kind or another."
A Habayit Hayehudi official said on Sunday night: "[Economy and Trade] Minister Bennett is dealing with lowering the cost of living. Food prices interest Israeli citizens more than cocktails in Oslo."
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (Hatnuah) and Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog (Labor), both of whom were in Washington for the Saban Forum, told Army Radio that they supported the idea of expanding the coalition and were happy that Lapid had finally adopted their position.
Labor MK Eitan Cabel, however, told Lapid, "If you want to play political games, don't do it at the expense of the Labor party."