(photo credit: channel 10)
At a time when Israeli politicians from across the political spectrum have criticized the Iraq Study Group report, Labor leadership contender Ophir Paz-Pines issued praise for it Monday.
The report's recommendations for more US involvement in the Middle East and finding a regional solution to the Iraq quagmire were in line with the Labor Party's liberal approach and "not necessarily against Israel," he said at Labor's faction meeting.
The report was written by a team headed by former secretary of state James Baker and former congressman Lee Hamilton.
The recommendation of a US withdrawal from Iraq could be helpful to Israel, Paz-Pines told The Jerusalem Post Monday.
"The report was good for Israel because as long as the US is in Iraq, America is impotent," he said. "As long as America is in Iraq, they cannot act on Iran, so Israel has an interest in helping America escape the Iraq fiasco. Baker-Hamilton is good for Israel, because time is working against us. We need more US involvement, more negotiations and more regional cooperation against Iran."
Paz-Pines attended the press conference at which Baker and Hamilton presented the report to the Senate in Washington, DC, last Wednesday. He also met with Sen. Joseph Lieberman. Lieberman made a point of differentiating himself from Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who met with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Washington late Monday.
Paz-Pines criticized Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for banning cabinet ministers from commenting on the report in Sunday's cabinet meeting.
"If I was prime minister, I would not tell my ministers not to talk about the report as if it was a disease," he said. "If anything, Olmert is really in favor of the report because it encourages the negotiations with the Palestinians that he supports."
Paz-Pines's only criticism of the report was its attempt to dictate the results of Israel's negotiations with Syria and the Palestinians, namely an Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon and the formation of a Palestinian state.
Labor chairman Amir Peretz told the faction Labor should play a central role in preventing a diplomatic stalemate, strengthening Arab moderates and encouraging negotiations. He said the Labor faction should meet soon to discuss the Palestinian, Lebanese, Syrian and Iranian issues.
Meanwhile, in the Labor leadership race, Paz-Pines and MK Ami Ayalon, the purported front-runner, petitioned an internal Labor court on Monday, asking it to allow the race to be held no later than June 2007, despite a loophole in the party constitution that was discovered last week that may prevent the race from being held before February 2009.
Peretz's supporters also appealed to the same court, asking it to ban a Labor race before February 2009 due to the loophole.
The court is set to convene on Wednesday.