Ben-Eliezer: Only the Right can make peace

Ben-Eliezer Only the Ri

Only a leader of the Israeli Right can succeed in bringing peace with the Palestinians, Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor) said over the weekend, in a revealing interview with the Ma'ariv newspaper. Ben-Eliezer said this despite being a former Labor Party leader who was close to former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and is now a loyal ally of defense minister and current Labor chairman Ehud Barak. "In the current sociopolitical situation, only a leader from the Right could pass a peace process through the nation," Ben-Eliezer said. "[Former prime minister Menachem] Begin returned the Sinai. Could a Labor leader do that? Could a Labor leader have dared evacuate Gaza and destroy the settlements?" Ben-Eliezer said. "Rabin was killed just for Oslo. Does anyone think I could have evacuated Gaza? Only a leader from the Right could bring such a change. There is nothing we can do. That's the reality. Take it or leave it." Ben-Eliezer boasted in the interview that he had spent considerable time with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and made a serious impact on his policies. He suggested that Netanyahu could succeed in reaching a peace agreement where his predecessors had failed. "Bibi wants to advance the diplomatic process with the Palestinians more than any leader I know," Ben-Eliezer said. "Despite the pressure he faces, he makes an effort day and night to reach a breakthrough." Ben-Eliezer was less charitable to Barak, who he said "has a problem with emotional intelligence" and "does not know how to get close to people." He accused Labor of having a "self-destructive virus" and of failing to develop a new generation of leaders. But Ben-Eliezer said he still believed Labor had an important role to play in pushing the Right toward the diplomatic process from inside the government. He said he did not believe there would be a merger between Likud and parts of Labor. "Bibi and Barak broadcast the same language," Ben-Eliezer said. "They understand each other. They complete each other. And yet, I don't see Barak joining Bibi." Ben-Eliezer described an ongoing process of the public moving to the Right, which he said was taking place because "the nation is tired" and "sick of the Arabs." Labor rebel MK Yuli Tamir said the only surprise for her in the interview was that Ben-Eliezer said what he did so bluntly. "This proves that he and Barak gave up on the Left, the peace process, coexistence with the Arabs and everything Labor has always believed in," she said. "This proves there is no sense in repairing the rift in the party. We have nothing left in common."