At no stage did Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu say he was prepared to
withdraw from the Golan Heights, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said
Saturday in an interview with Channel Two's "Meet The Press" program.
Barak's comments came in response to a Yediot Ahronot report a day earlier,
that stated that the prime minister had agreed in principle to withdraw
from the Golan as part of a peace agreement with Syria in negotiations
that took place in the fall of 2010.
"Neither Netanyahu nor I
said we were prepared to do this," Barak asserted, explaining that no
concrete negotiations had been held. Barak said that the United States
had explored the possibility of whether Syria would cut ties with
Hezbollah and Iran: "If this would have been possible it would have been
worth considering many options." However, he emphasized, "we didn't get
to this stage at all," and added, "we don't give presents for free."
Retorting to accusations made earlier by Vice Premier Moshe Ya'alon
that Barak put political interests ahead of national considerations,
the defense minister attributed Ya'alon's "pathetic" comments to
political "pandering" ahead of the Likud party's primaries.
asserted that he strives for decisive action against the Iranian
nuclear threat in cooperation with the US, and will continue to do so.
He stressed that there was no difference between his and Netanyahu's
positions, except that he places a lot of importance on conducting
discussions on the issue "behind closed doors." He added that following
Netanyahu's speech at the United Nations General Assembly, the prime
minister had "returned" to holding discussions in closed forums.
to elections, Barak confidently predicted that his party, Independence,
would pass the electoral threshold. "I'm not running for prime
minister, but I hope that we will have a significant presence in the
next Knesset," he said. He questioned the wisdom of former prime minister
Ehud Olmert running for Knesset, opining that "the norm of the rule of
law is under threat," in reference to corruption charges against
Olmert. "I don't want to say that he shouldn't run, but my stance is