Barak says Israel needs new peace plan

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN, REBBECA ANNA STOIL
May 11, 2010 03:44

"Our responsibility to get an agreement" despite tough decisions.

4 minute read.



Barak and Mitchell meet in TA.

Barak Mitchell 311. (photo credit: Ariel Hermoni / Defense Ministry)

Israel must present the United States with a new diplomatic plan soon in order to reiterate the government’s willingness to take key steps to US President Barack Obama and the world, Labor chairman Ehud Barak told the Labor faction meeting at the Knesset on Monday.

Barak praised the proximity talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as an interim stage en route to direct negotiations that he hopes will lead to a breakthrough and an agreement with the Palestinians.

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“We can reach an agreement to end this [conflict] without sacrificing our security,” Barak said. “Continuing to control another nation is very problematic as a long-term policy, and it is one of the causes of the erosion of Israel’s legitimacy in the world. To prevent this, Israel must present a plan on all diplomatic issues. We should deal with the core issues and persuade the US that Israel can make very tough decisions while insisting that the other side must, too.”

Also on Monday, in the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Barak said that Israel has no other option but to enable the establishment of a Palestinian state.

“Continuing control of another nation is no less dangerous than complications with our worst enemies,” Barak told the committee. “We know it is hard, but there is no other option. Thus we must create borders in the land with clear boundaries. “On one side, there will be a Jewish majority that will be stable for generations, and on the other the Palestinians will be able to establish a Palestinian state.”

Barak also emphasized the importance of the close relationship between Israel and the Palestinians.

“There is a deep and strong connection between the US and Israel on security issues. On the diplomatic field, the US is investing great effort to deal with challenges on the different fronts that also interest Israel, such as Iran, Iraq, and Middle East terror, and they expect Israel to be mobilized behind them on those subjects,” Barak said.

“We must remember that a large portion of the military platforms that offer us supremacy is dependent to a large extent on the American desire that we maintain that supremacy. [The Americans] are also the address for other requests for assistance in other fields, such as the veto in the United Nations Security Council, removing the barriers to acceptance to the OECD – on subjects like this we always turn to, and get help from, the United States.”

Barak did, however, warn that in recent times, relations between America and Israel “have reached a certain disconnect and friction under the surface.”

“There is a great need to change the character of the current relations from the foundations upward,” Barak added.

Barak also discussed the proximity talks with the Palestinians that are set to begin later this week.

“I think it is impossible to discuss key issues like borders, refugees and Jerusalem in the framework of the proximity talks because we are not sitting together and can’t see each other,” he complained.

“My working assumption is that it is our responsibility to get an agreement with the Palestinians despite the tough decisions that we must make. I have heard within the Cabinet the positions of some of my colleagues that even surprised me. I feel that because of our responsibility to the nation, there is more readiness to recognize the need for painful or difficult decisions.”

Barak did, however, say that in determining the border, settlement blocs must remain on the Israeli side to guarantee “security interests” and that ultimately the two sides must arrive at agreements regarding Jerusalem, the settlement of refugees in the framework of the Palestinian state and to determine that such an agreement will create the end of the conflict.

Barak promised his faction that they would hold a long-awaited discussion on diplomatic issues in the next week or two.

MK Shelly Yacimovich complained that by continuing to delay the discussion, Barak was mocking the faction, and he responded that the delay was not something that should cause anyone to jump off a roof.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu also faced a challenge in his faction meeting on the diplomatic issue. Hawkish Likud MK Danny Danon told him: “I believe you on the Jerusalem issue but the public is confused. You should tell President Obama courageously to take his hands off Jerusalem, like Menachem Begin did with [then-president Jimmy] Carter.”

Netanyahu responded: “Our position on Jerusalem is clear to the Americans, including the president. This has practical implications. There is currently no delay in the planning and building processes.”

In the meeting Strategic Affairs Minister Dan Meridor warned about the haredization of Jerusalem. If the city becomes more haredi, the secular public will cease to care about it, he cautioned.


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