'Deal preferable to unilateral PA move'

Barak With no agreement

barak I is a tough mothafucka 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
barak I is a tough mothafucka 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
"Experience proves that actions taken in agreement are preferable to unilateral measures," Defense Minister Ehud Barak said at Sunday morning's cabinet meeting. Barak was responding to Palestinian Authority top negotiator Saeb Erekat's announcement that the PA might unilaterally ask the UN to recognize a Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. "Whoever opts for unilateral action risks losing vital cooperation. There is a veritable improvement [of relations] vis-à-vis the United States on resuming negotiations with the Palestinians, but we need the other side as well," said Barak. The defense minister explained that while "Israel is strong" and capable of deterrence, the Jewish state "has a strategic interest in achieving peace through negotiations." Barak added that Israel "must look soberly at the alternatives awaiting it if an agreement is not be reached." He said there were two options, first, an increase in support for the Palestinians' unilateral declaration of statehood or second, a gradual rise in the demand for a bi-national state. "Both threats won't materialize by tomorrow morning," he said, "but we should not underestimate their validity." The defense minister said that the fact that Israel was ruling over another people for 42 years was at the root of "weakening international support for Israel and phenomena like the Goldstone Report." Barak stated that "it is our responsibility to end this. We have vital interests and nothing needs to happen at any price or by running amok, but we must not be confused regarding our responsibility to reach an agreement with the Palestinians." Several government ministers slammed Erekat's announcement before entering the cabinet meeting. Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau [Israel Beiteinu], said "the unilateral initiative to establish a Palestinian state is insolent. It is a hostile enterprise, intended to reduce the chances of any kind of negotiation." Erekat himself told Army Radio earlier Sunday morning that the Palestinians "are sick of your foot dragging. We do not believe you are genuinely interested in the two-state solution." Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom said "the Palestinians need to know that unilateral steps will not bring the result they expect and that Israel will respond accordingly to any action they [the Palestinians] decide to take." On Saturday evening, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said an address at the Saban Forum in Jerusalem that a return to the pre-1967 lines with a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria, would bring the conflict into Israel's borders, according to Israel Radio and other Israeli media outlets. Establishing a Palestinian state will not bring an end to the conflict, Lieberman was quoted as saying. The forum's deliberations were supposed to be conducted behind closed doors, but Lieberman's comments were immediately reported by Hebrew news Web sites and then by Israel Radio. If a Palestinian state were established in Judea and Samaria, the minister reportedly added, Israeli Arabs would demand autonomy in the Galilee and the Negev and would build stronger bonds with the Palestinian Authority.