311_Barak in Knesset.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Binyamin Netanyahu was set to arrive for a key Washington meeting, Defense Minister Ehud Barak reiterated Monday that Israel must present the Americans with a peace initiative in order to save relations between the two countries.
While briefing the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Barak also revealed his side of the fight surrounding former Labor ally Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer’s recent meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
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Barak claimed that although he had foreseen that Ben-Eliezer’s meeting would not yield fruit, he had wished him luck in the endeavor.
“Israel must present Obama with a clear initiative that discusses drawing a border in Israel in a way that settlement blocs along the border will remain in our hands and have a solid Jewish majority for generations, but in a way that will enable the establishment of an independent and demilitarized Palestinian state,” Barak told committee members.
“I believe that in the coming months, we will know if we are progressing in a direction that will change the diplomatic picture,” he continued. “In this sense, the prime minister’s visit to Washington is very important.
Israel must show initiative and strengthen the base of our relations with the United States.”
Barak said he believed that such an Israeli initiative would help put an end to attempts to isolate Israel internationally.
The second goal of such an initiative, he emphasized, would be to “maintain the special relations with America,” and the third would be to strengthen “the moderate camp in the Arab world.”
The defense minister, who has recently found himself isolated in his own party following the public split with Ben- Eliezer over the meeting in Turkey, responded to claims that he had attempted to undermine Ben-Eliezer’s achievements by leaking details of the meeting to the public.
“During my visit to the United States two weeks ago, there was a Turkish attempt to arrange a meeting between me, their foreign minister, and their ambassador to Washington,” Barak revealed. “It was clear to me that the meeting was simply intended to reiterate the Turkish position and their complaints against us, such as the demand for an international investigation, for compensation and so forth. Thus, I thought that it was not correct for me to hold such a meeting.”
Barak told MKs that he had told Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu when the subject was raised after his return from Washington that “this is [neither] the appropriate time nor situation” for the meeting between Ben-Eliezer and Davutoglu.
But despite this, said Barak “the next day, Ben-Eliezer told me that in a conversation between him and the prime minister, they had agreed that he would meet with the Turkish foreign minister. I expressed my hope that the meeting would succeed.”
Speaking more generally, Barak said that the decline in Israel-Turkey relations were part of a broader trend of Islamization and distancing from the West.
Although more flotillas were being planned, Barak emphasized that “there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The only person in Gaza who needs aid is [captive IDF soldier] Gilad Schalit. Four years after he fell into the hands of Hamas, we are continuing to make every effort to secure his release, and we are looking to formulate the right way to bring him home.”
However, he said, “this is not the place to detail the processes and efforts that we are undertaking.”
Barak reassured MKs concerned about the relaxation of the blockade that although “there are decisions to relax the blockade on Gaza, we do not intend to remove the naval blockade. We want to prevent the entrance of rockets, missiles and weapons. The aid ships that will come to Gaza will first be checked in the Ashdod Port.”Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.