Defense minister 'missing' for 2 days

Barak may have met with

barak pretty good 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Hermoni / Defense Ministry)
barak pretty good 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Hermoni / Defense Ministry)
In an echo of the fevered speculation that surrounded Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's initially secret visit to Russia in September, rumors are flying about a purported mystery trip Defense Minister Ehud Barak may have made during an otherwise unaccounted-for two days on Sunday and Monday. Some are linking Barak's ostensible disappearance to reports that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas held secret talks in Jordan on Sunday with an unidentified senior Israeli figure before flying on to meet with Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. Diplomatic officials revealed earlier in the week that Barak had spoken to Abbas this week, but they gave the impression that the two spoke by phone. Barak's spokesman said on Sunday that he would be "on vacation" for those two days. When reporters in the Knesset cafeteria asked him where he was on those days, Barak declined to answer and merely muttered something about his soup. Later in the conversation, he expressed confidence that the Netanyahu government would succeed in moving the peace process forward. Asked about Barak's whereabouts, the Defense Ministry issued a flat "no comment," while security officials raised the possibility of Jordan or that he went with National Security Adviser Uzi Arad to India. An associate of Abbas said he was with him on Sunday in Jordan and accompanied him to the airport on Monday and Barak did not meet with him. The possibility of Barak having met with Abbas would be particularly intriguing, amid mounting US pressure on the Palestinian leader to meet with Netanyahu and restart peace negotiations. Abbas told Haaretz last month that he had spoken to Barak twice in recent weeks. On Monday, The Jerusalem Post revealed that while Abbas has been refusing to sit down with Netanyahu, he is in telephone contact with President Shimon Peres, who even recently tried to talk him out of resigning.