'All efforts to be made for Schalit but not at any price'

Barak says demands Red Cross be allowed to visit captured soldier in Gaza, says land swap to be part of any future Palestinian peace deal.

By JPOST.COM STAFF
May 11, 2011 00:57
2 minute read.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak

Barak speech serious 311. (photo credit: REUTERS/Charles Dharapak/Pool )

 
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Israel must make every effort to bring home captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, but not at any price, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Tuesday night.

Speaking at a Defense Ministry reception in Tel Aviv to mark Israel's Independence Day, Barak said he demands Hamas explicitly recognize Israel and called on Palestinians to follow conditions set forth by the Quartet peace plan.

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He said a condition he would add to the Quartet's plan would be "the demand obvious to all civilized people to allow, above all, for the Red Cross to visit Schalit in Gaza."

Commenting on Yoel Schalit and protesters' interruption Tuesday night at the torch lighting ceremony in Jerusalem during which the older Schalit called for the release of his brother, Barak said "There was no mistaking the heat of emotions that they were under. The heart is with them. But we need to maintain self control in public along the way, a way I hope and pray will be a short one."

During the reception, Barak also outlined Israel's conditions for a peace deal with the Palestinians, including maintaining settlement blocs and Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem.

He said the pre-1967 borders would be adjusted with land swaps that would leave the Palestinians with the same amount of territory, as they would have been expected to receive if there had been a full return to the 1967 lines.

For security reasons, the new Palestinian state would be demilitarized and Israel would need to maintain a presence in the Jordan Valley to ensure security.

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It would also be clear to Palestinians that Israel is the homeland for the Jewish people, much like the new state of Palestine would be for the Palestinian people, Barak said.

Israel has always known that it would have to take courageous steps for peace, he said.

Speaking about the recent unrest in the Arab world, the defense minister said that despite Israel's strength, "we have not reached peace and tranquility." He said that despite the long-term hopes for liberty, the short-term reality can be expected to be "difficulties alongside opportunity."

Barak also said that the relationship between Israel and the US was vital in maintaining security, and that the two countries should cooperate in order "to weaken the radical camp" and to fight known terrorists to ensure "stability in the region."

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