Barak: Link Gaza, W. Bank with tunnel

Defense minister says 48km. tunnel would assure free movement; stresses need for two-state solution.

Barak 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Barak 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The best way to achieve territorial continuity between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank is by digging a tunnel that would connect the two areas, Defense Minister and Labor party head Ehud Barak said on Monday. Speaking at an elections rally at Beersheba's Ben Gurion University, Barak explained that the tunnel would be 48 kilometers long and cost US$2-3 billion. "Palestinians would have unlimited access to the tunnel, and would be able to travel it undisturbed," he added. Regarding a peace agreement with the Palestinians, Barak stressed the Israeli commitment to peace, alongside its duty to remain wary of its partner. "We have a supreme responsibility to reach a [peace arrangement with the Palestinians] but that can only be attained from a position of power, once the other side realizes that it cannot topple Israel with military force, wear it down with terror or pull it into a diplomatic honey trap," Barak said, proceeding to illustrate the special conditions in the region. "One hand seeks peace all the time... and the other hand keeps a finger near the trigger, ready to squeeze it at any moment. This is the path in the Middle East, and I'll keep walking on it," he stated. "A political solution of two states for two nations is the only solution that can bring a long-term agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians," he added. The defense minister also slammed rival Kadima party. "What kind of 'new politics' would Kadima bring if a senior member of the party, deputy prime minister [Haim Ramon], is entangled in embarrassing felonies, was convicted in a court, didn't appeal the ruling, and in a cabinet meeting calls for the establishment of a state commission of inquiry to investigate his investigators, while they are investigating the prime minister? What kind of new politics are those?"   Barak also referred to rumors of the Likud approaching some Kadima members in attempts to draw them back to their original Likud party, setting forth the equation that voting for Kadima is potentially giving the Likud more voices. "[Kadima members] are right-wingers, they've already [left their parties] once, and there is no reason they wouldn't do it again. They are not drawn to ideology, but rather to political power," he said.