Peres, Barak break Al-Jazeera boycott

President, defense minister grant interviews to Qatar-based network though deal not yet reached.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
September 2, 2008 23:43
2 minute read.
Peres, Barak break Al-Jazeera boycott

Peres speaks 224.88. (photo credit: AP)

President Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Ehud Barak broke Israel's boycott of Al-Jazeera when they each granted interviews to the Qatar-based network this week. Foreign Ministry officials said there was an understanding in the Prime Minister's Office, Foreign Ministry and Defense Ministry not to speak to Al-Jazeera due to its coverage that the officials called "anti-Israel." Negotiations have been taking place between the Foreign Ministry and the network, but no agreement has been reached, they said. The problems cited with the coverage included the network's coverage of freed Lebanese murderer Samir Kuntar as a hero, its cooperation with Hamas's false claims that Israel was not providing electricity to the Gaza Strip, and most recently, its decision to cover a meeting between Hamas leader Ismail Haniyah with international activists who sailed to Gaza by boat - and not Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas receiving Palestinians prisoners released by Israel last week. A Foreign Ministry official complained to Beit Hanassi on Tuesday about Peres breaking the boycott. Ministry officials accused Peres's office of "negligence" in ignoring the boycott. Officials in Peres's office responded that they were unaware of a decision to boycott Al-Jazeera. They said that Peres gave a "terrific" 40-minute interview Tuesday on the occasion of the start of Ramadan in which he outlined Israel's positions on diplomatic issues and against Muslim extremism. Foreign Ministry officials said that Barak's interview on Monday was less of a problem, because it was with Al-Jazeera's English network and not its more problematic Arabic channel. While the Government Press Office has repeatedly threatened both networks with sanctions, the Foreign Ministry and other government agencies have continued cooperating with the English network while often criticizing its reporting. In the interview with Al-Jazeera English correspondent Jacky Rowland, Barak ruled out the return of Palestinians who consider themselves refugees to the final borders of Israel. He said he could make an exception to solve "certain humanitarian issues on a very limited scale." "I do not and cannot see any Israeli prime minister, right or left, past or future, who will agree to accept even a single Palestinian refugee into Israel based on the right of return," Barak said. "That was my position when I was prime minister, it was the position of any other prime ministers from Rabin to Peres, Shamir to Begin, and it will be the position of Israel in the future." On the issue of settlements, Barak said that Israel had a right to build inside Jerusalem and in the settlement blocs of Ma'aleh Adumim, Gush Etzion, Givat Ze'ev, Ariel and others. Barak said he expected the eventual border between Israel and a future Palestinian state would be based on the current route of the security barrier but would be changed in agreements with the Palestinians. Barak said that eight years after then-Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat rejected his offer of a state at Camp David, he still envisioned a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. "Our basic position is that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, but that we can find a formula under which certain heavily populated Arab neighborhoods could become in a peace agreement part of the Palestinian capital that of course would include the neighboring villages around Jerusalem," Barak said.


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