Says peace initiatives give Israel more freedom on security issues.
By HILARY LEILA KRIEGER
WASHINGTON – US officials are looking for Israel to take risks in pursuit of an aggressive peace process, according to Defense Minister Ehud Barak.Barak, who backs intensive efforts, spoke to reporters late Thursday at the end of a five-day visit to the United States.“They want to see an Israel that takes its security seriously but is ready to take risks to advance an assertive peace process,” he said of the message he received in meetings with top American officials.Barak argued that Israel should present such an initiative, as it’s “the only way to achieve real freedom to do what we need to do for security.”He also said it was important to remove the “mines” from the relationship between the two countries, particularly as the United States faces other regional challenges including Iraq and Afghanistan.On Wednesday and Thursday Barak met with Vice President Joe Biden, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, National Security Advisor Jim Jones, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel and several members of Congress.The Israeli-Palestinian peace process, policy toward Gaza, Iran and the recent Non-Proliferation Treaty conference at the UN – which singled out Israel in a concluding document signed onto by the US – were central subjects of their conversation.AdvertisementOn Gaza, Barak explained details of Israel’s commitment to ease the flow of goods and its willingness to see the Palestinian Authority return to manning the land crossings.Barak said that he raised the issue of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit – who was captured four years ago – at every meeting he held.“It's our duty to bring him back, but not at any cost,” he said. “We will continue dealing with this in the coming days and weeks until he returns."Barak’s visit, timed to coincident with the Socialist International conference held earlier in the week in New York, come ahead of a July 6 trip to Washington by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The PM was originally supposed to come at the beginning of June, but canceled to be in Jerusalem to deal with the fallout from Israel’s deadly raid on a flotilla attempted to break the Gaza naval blockade.
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