Israeli defence Minister Ehud Barak says that Israel is closer to a peace agreement with Palestine now, than it was in 2000 when he was prime minister.In an exclusive interview with The LA Times, Barak said that Netanyahu has already hinted at making certain compromises and that Israel needs a “daring proposal” to move the peace process forward:
If you listen to his speech in the Knesset [on Monday], there were certain elements that were quite clear movement toward the positions that many of us here think are essential for any sincere Israeli proposal: namely, that we’ll make clear those elements that have to do with borders and the need to make major, painful concessions regarding what he called part of our fatherland.
…I don’t know how to judge it. It’s clear to me that Israel at this junction should act and not be paralysed by the uncertainties, low visibility, volcanic eruptions and historical earthquake around us. It makes sense that many people say, “Let’s not be too enthusiastic about doing something at any price.” On the other hand, I personally feel that we should be ready to move. We need to put [something] on the table, whether behind closed doors to the president or in public. We need to be ready to move toward a daring proposal that will include the readiness to deliver an answer to all the core issues.
Barak said he thinks Palestinian President Abbas is sincere. Unlike Yasser Arafat who refused to recognise Israel, he believes Abbas will. He was even surprisingly understanding about the Hamas-Fatah unity pact. The LA Times reports:
People here say, “Oh, that’s a catastrophe.” I say that doesn’t make sense. We cannot say on the one hand that [Abbas] is not a real partner because any negotiations would be, at most, an agreement that you put on the shelf because he doesn’t control half his people, and then on the other side, when he tries to resume control [of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip], to say, “Now they are lost.” It’s not lost. But we should say loud and clear, if and when they form a technocratic government, we expect the government, Fatah and mainly Hamas, to be ready to explicitly accept … recognition of Israel, acceptance of all previous agreements and denouncing terror.
But Barak isn’t optimistic on the outcome of the peace agreement:
…Probably along the way we will find that while we are trying to find a breakthrough for a fully-fledged agreement, only an interim one can be achieved. So let’s find it. We should prepare for all three possibilities: a breakthrough agreement, stalemate or an interim agreement. All three are better than the alternative, which might lead to growing isolation of Israel.
The interview came ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Washington on Friday.
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