Barak: 'Dialogue with the Yesha Council is key'

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Monday that he would not give settlers living in unauthorized outposts any ultimatums nor would there be warnings as to when evacuations are to commence. However, "dialogue with the Yesha Council is key in trying to resolve this [issue]." Speaking to Army Radio, the defense minister went on to reiterate Israel's obligation to evacuate illegal outposts. "We have commitments from previous governments to the Road Map. That is the context of our action." "The important thing that needs to happen now is that the government must undertake peace efforts as brought forth in the Road Map. Then we should evacuate," Barak said in the interview. In light of worldwide criticism of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who has to date not uttered the words 'two-state solution' when referring to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as prescribed by the Road Map and as undertaken by previous governments, Barak said "we've been saying 'two states' the whole time. Saying these words will not make the Palestinians embrace us nor will they magically make the Iranians stop their nuclear program." Commenting on the prime minister's recent visit to Washington, as well as increasing calls by US officials to halt settlement activity, Barak said, "In the White House sits a serious man." "We need to sow intimacy between Israel and the US," he continued. "We need it for combating the Iranian threat and for achieving peace with the Palestinians. Netanyahu has serious considerations and tough decisions to make." "America needs to know that we are committed to peace. When they see that we are committed to the Road Map, when they see that we want to advance a comprehensive agreement, that we want to see a thriving Palestinian economy, they will lessen the pressure regarding settlement expansion for reasons of natural population growth. It is a valid reason," Barak added.