Barak expects 'serious dialogue' with US

But defense minister warns that endorsing two-state solution won't "cause Iran to stop the centrifuges."

barak with bald army dude 248 88 (photo credit: Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
barak with bald army dude 248 88
(photo credit: Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
The meeting between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama marked the beginning of "serious dialogue" between Israel and the current administration, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Tuesday, praising the US president's intention to put forward a "comprehensive regional solution" to the conflict with the Arab world. During a tour of OC Central Command, Barak was asked whether there were differences between Obama and Netanyahu on the Palestinian issue. "It would be more correct to say that there was serious dialogue," Barak replied. "I spoke to Netanyahu last night after midnight and he updated me on some of the content [of the meeting]. I think that we are at the start of serious dialogue with the Americans. It will take time and will comprise all of the issues." The defense minister said he was "happy to hear that Obama understands that the Iranian issue is very serious." Barak warned, however, that "the challenge is not only how to talk to them but what do we do if it turns out that the Iranians are continuing to consistently strive for a military nuclear ability." The defense minister reiterated Israel's position that sanctions on Teheran should not be open-ended; a position that is at variance with statements made by Obama during the joint press conference with Netanyahu. "We have stated our stance and we aren't hiding it from the Americans," Barak said. "The state of Israel believes that the period allocated to sanctions should be limited and short and come immediately after dialogue, which should also be brief. Israel is not taking any option off the table and we recommend that others also keep all of the options on the table." Referring to talk of linking the Iranian issue to Israeli acceptance of a two-state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians, Barak said, "My opinion and the opinion of the Labor party in this issue are well known; we are in favor of two states for two peoples. It's just that I don't believe that those five words will cause Iran to stop the centrifuges. Israel has already said that [it is in favor of] two states for two peoples and it did not cause the Palestinians to fall into our arms." The defense minister also alluded to Netanyahu's insistence on first focusing on the economic aspect in the peace process with the Palestinians and the demand that the PA recognize the Jewish nature of Israel. Part of the negotiations, he said, "is building economic ability and financial institutions from the ground up. The goal is to arrive at a situation where both peoples are living side by side in peace with mutual respect and good neighborly relations."