Peretz: Final peace deal by decade's end

Says he'll sign deal giving away e. J'lem but keeping large settlements.

amir peretz biz 88 (photo credit: )
amir peretz biz 88
(photo credit: )
For the first time since his election as Labor Party Chairman, Amir Peretz led an address on the issue of defense during the Herziliya conference Monday night. Peretz promised that while the Labor party would seek to reach a final status agreement within the decade, future withdrawals would be done with "full compensation and sensitivity to the settlers." "Even if there is no partner for peace with the Palestinians," said Peretz. "I will aim for a full and complete separation." He added that Israel had been paying a heavy price for not internalizing the need for a Palestinian state when they should have. "When I was mayor of Sderot I discussed a two state solution," he said. "If we had done it then it would not have become the radical and fundamentalist society it is known as today. Peretz was well received by the conference delegates, who noted that his tone and manner were more subdued for the occasion. Peretz's pledge of further withdrawals from Judea Samaria and East Jerusalem had already been presented as part of the Labor party platform Sunday night, but Peretz's promises of a "moral road map," were the strongest public statements on defense he has made to date. He did add, however, that under his plan the large settlement blocs would remain under Israel's sovereignty. Peretz's speech did not, however, present new party ideas, admitted high ranking Labor Party members. "The Israeli Palestinian conflict hinders Israel's relations with Muslim states," said Peretz, who added that a Labor led government would seek to immediately complete the construction of the West Bank separation fence and the establishment of a Palestinian state there to move peaceful relations forward. "Jerusalem must remain the Jewish capital," said Peretz. 'Right now there is a weak and poor Jerusalem, we must strengthen it through its separate identities." In the closing moments of his speech, Peretz reminded the audience of his socio-economic goals, namely raising the minimum wage to $1,000 per month and providing old-age benefits to retirees. Peretz spoke on the day the government released its annual poverty report, which revealed that one in three children live below the poverty line.