Ben-Eliezer warns of bi-national state

Slams peace negotiations as "virtual," says without agreement, Arabs will set up nationalist movement.

ben eliezer 224.88  (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
ben eliezer 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer on Saturday strongly criticized the ongoing peace talks with the Palestinians, warned of the establishment of a bi-national state in Israel and reiterated his call to free jailed Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti. Speaking at a 'Cultural Shabbat' event in Haifa, Ben-Eliezer said the current peace talks were "virtual negotiations." "Only freeing Barghouti can change the picture. I respect [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas and [PA Prime Minister Salaam] Fayad. They are good people. But what happened to the 60,000 weapons transferred to them? Everything is now under Hamas's control. I am looking for someone with whom a deal can be struck," he said. The infrastructures minister warned that Hamas could soon take control of the West Bank. "At this rate, Hamas will soon take over the West Bank. In my opinion, the only one who can stop this is Marwan Barghouti." He warned that in the absence of a peace deal, a third Arab nationalist movement would be set up which, in turn, would lead to the establishment of a binational state on Israeli territory. "What have we achieved in 41 years of settlements in the territories? Two Palestinian nationalist movements," said the infrastructures minister. "At this rate, we will get a third nationalist movement comprised of Arab Israelis. We are heading toward a binational state and therefore, we have a great interest, more than the Palestinians, of reaching a deal, if we want to retain our small, Zionist Israel." Regarding recent political developments, Ben-Eliezer estimated that the next political contest will be between Labor and Likud. "I am not certain that Kadima will disappear, but the public have a long score to settle with [Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert. I will not oppose a unification with Kadima, but certainly not before the elections." In reference to Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu, Ben-Eliezer said that he was sure the public had not forgotten how, as finance minister he was only concerned about the wealthier sectors of society. Concerning Labor chairman Ehud Barak, Ben-Eliezer said that he was currently "the most important figure for Israel due to the security challenges we face, which preferably should remain undisclosed to the public." Nevertheless, he said Barak understands a lot about security and defense but much less about politics, stressing that the defense minister therefore needed a strong support base.