'Gaza, West Bank can be linked by tunnel'

Barak says that 48-km. tunnel will assure undisturbed movement; stresses need for two-state solution.

elections2009_248 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
The way to achieve territorial continuity between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank is by digging a tunnel that would connect the two areas, Defense Minister and Labor party head Ehud Barak said on Monday. Speaking at an elections rally at Beersheba's Ben-Gurion University, Barak explained that the tunnel would be 48 kilometers long and cost 2-3 billion dollars. "Palestinians will have unlimited access to the tunnel, and will be be able to travel it undisturbed," he added. Regarding a peace agreement with the Palestinians, Barak stressed the Israeli commitment to peace alongside its duty to remain wary of its partner. "We have a supreme responsibility to reach a [peace arrangement with the Palestinians] but that can only be attained from a position of power, once the other side realizes that it cannot topple Israel with military force, nor can it wear it down with terror or pull it into a diplomatic honey trap," Barak said, illustrating the special conditions of the region. "One hand seeks peace all the time... and the other hand keeps a finger near the trigger, ready to squeeze it at any moment. This is the only way to go in the Middle East, and I'll keep walking it," he stated. "A political solution of two states for two nations is the only solution that can bring a long-term agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians," he added. The defense minister didn't fail to slam rival Kadima party, casting serious doubt on the sincerity of its self-proclaimed commitment to new politics as long as figures such as former Laborite Haim Ramon rank high in its leadership. "What kind of 'new politics' would Kadima bring if a senior member of the party, the deputy prime minister, is entangled in embarrassing felonies, convicted in a court, does not appeal the ruling, and in a cabinet meeting calls for the establishment of a state commission of inquiry to investigate his investigators, while they are investigating the prime minister - what kind of new politics are those?" Barak also referred to rumors of the Likud approaching some Kadima members in attempts to draw them back to their original Likud party, setting forth the equation that voting for Kadima is potentially giving the Likud more voices. "[Kadima members] are right-wingers, they've already [left their parties] once, and there is no reason they wouldn't do it again. They are not drawn to ideology, but rather to political power," he said.