Stop 'deluding' us, Labor rebels tell PM

'Dissident' MKs call on Netanyahu to drop talk of "economic peace" and embrace two-state solution.

barak goes mad 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
barak goes mad 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Labor "dissidents" on Saturday night called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu not to "delude" himself and the Israeli people that there is a solution to the conflict with the Palestinians that does not include two states for two peoples. In a letter addressed to Netanyahu on the eve of his trip to Washington, MKs Eitan Cabel, Amir Peretz, Ophir Paz-Pines and Yuli Tamir urged Netanyahu to drop talk of "economic peace" and accept the Arab peace initiative. "In the coming hours you must decide whether you have the courage to take advantage of the opportunity the American president and the leaders of the Arab world are presenting to Israel and forge forward towards a final status agreement for our region, or whether you are about to lead us, again, towards a dead end that will jeopardize the international support that Israel needs in order to deal with the challenges it faces," the letter read. The MKs, who have remained in the opposition despite Labor's decision to join the Likud-led coalition, emphasized that there could be no progress in the diplomatic process "without cessation of construction in the settlements and the removal of illegal outposts." Israel cannot become a "peace refuser," they said, warning that failure could saddle the prime minister with responsibility for the "failure of a two-thousand-year-old dream." On Saturday, Defense Minister and Labor chair Ehud Barak said that a regional peace accord could be feasible "within three years." In an interview with Channel 2 ahead of Netanyahu's trip, the defense minister said that such a treaty, once reached, "may take another five years to implement." "We need to convince the Americans that we are serious in our intent to reach a regional deal," he added. "I believe that Netanyahu can tell Obama that we are prepared to enter a diplomatic process at the end of which both peoples will reside side by side." Asked about the Iranian nuclear threat, Barak repeated his standard statement that Israel was "not taking any option off the table, and we suggest everyone else do the same." With the rising threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, and repeated statements by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that Israel and Zionism must be eradicated or "wiped off the map," Israeli and Jewish leaders have increasingly compared Iran to Nazi Germany, as well as Ahmadinejad to Adolf Hitler, and some have likened the current situation to pre-Holocaust times. But Barak disagreed. "I'm not very happy with comparisons. We are not the Jews of Europe. The State of Israel is the strong one here," he said. "I don't see anyone annihilating it." Barak added that while Israel would not object to the US holding negotiations with Iran, such talks should be short and concise, and - should they fail - tough sanctions should follow. Asked about captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, Barak said the government had not forsaken him. "We have a sacred duty to return Schalit and to do everything [needed]," he said. "I'm sorry to say that the previous government was unable to finish things." But, he said, "this public discussion will not bring him [back]. I don't think it's good to discuss it on television."