Barak speech serious 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Charles Dharapak/Pool )
A "daring" peace initiative by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is
vital to the country's security and international standing, Defense
Minister Ehud Barak said during an interview with The LA Times published Thursday. Barak said that without one, Israel could face increased isolation, mass popular protests and its military aid from the United States could be at risk.
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The defense minister's comments came ahead of Netanyahu's White House meeting with US President Barack Obama on Friday.
During the interview Barak said that Netanyahu has made "clear movement"
in spelling out his peace vision by stressing Israel's insistence on
maintaining settlement blocks as well as a military presence along the
Jordan Valley. But Barak said Israel still lacks "a sense of direction."
Barak said he believes a peace deal is closer today than it was when he
was prime minister during the Camp David talks in 2000. He did, however
warn that if no deal is reached then Israel's desire for increased US
military aid could be at risk.
Netanyahu spent Wednesday making final preparations for his
flight on Thursday evening to Washington, meeting with Likud ministers
throughout the day to, as one aide said, “share his thoughts with them, and hear
what they have to say.”
He told the group of 15 Likud ministers and MKs
that his definition of settlement blocs was broad. MK Danny Danon complained
about the prime minister’s speech to the Knesset on Monday in which he said he
said there was a consensus in Israel about maintaining settlement blocs and
implied that he might not keep settlements outside the blocs.
Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat asked Netanyahu to raise the fate of
Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard in his meeting with Obama, Netanyahu said the
case of Pollard “pained his heart.”
Netanyahu is schedule to leave for
the US late on Thursday night, a number of hours after Obama
delivers his speech on the Middle East.
He is scheduled to meet Obama on
Friday morning at 11:15 a.m for an hour, and then they will meet the press for 10
minutes for joint statements. No questions from journalists are scheduled to be
Netanyahu is expected to stress the significance of
putting Iran back on the top of the international agenda too.
The two leaders are
also expected to address the wide range of regional issues confronting their
countries – from the Arab uprisings to the killing of Osama bin Laden to the
stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process – but that very full plate of topics
has pushed Iran off the front burner, to the concern of many in
Israel.Hilary Leila Krieger contributed to this report.