BREAKING NEWS: Ehud Barak on Peace With Palestine

Netanyahu's public comments after the speech left those of us who want peace with little but faith in the President. This interview with Ehud Barak adds a lot to that faith in peace as something that is possible. Even the threat of a 100,000 "man" march .. instead of stones and suicide bombs ... could be an augury of something better.

Excerpts from an interview by Edmund Sanders of the LA Timne, With Israel’s Ehud Barak, Monister of Defense:

Sanders: For two years, people close to Netanyahu have predicted that he would surprise the world by making a dramatic peace overture. Now some doubt it will ever happen.

Barak: I don’t buy this description that he should surprise us, or that he just has to surprise us by making this inevitable step. It’s much more complicated. ……….I believe that if Netanyahu is met with a responsive Palestinian leadership and supportive American administration and quartet, he might be able to make the decisions. He fully understands the reality.

Barak:……It’s clear to me that Israel at this junction should act and not be paralyzed 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.

Sanders: In your assessment, are Palestinians ready to reach an agreement?

Barak: It’s more complicated for them than in the past. But I think [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] seems to me to be at least sincere. I can’t read his gut. [Prime Minister Salam] Fayyad is sincere. They are doing a good job in this bottom-up building of embryonic state institutions. There is more freedom, more normalcy, more security, and a much lower level of terror than in any previous years.

Sanders: Can Israel work with a PA that includes Hamas? 

Barak: 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.

Sanders: Are we closer or farther away from resolving the conflict today than when you negotiated at Camp David in 2000?

Barak: We’re closer. …..The other side has changed. Abu Mazen [Abbas] and Fayyad say loud and clear, if there is an agreement that meets their minimum demands, they are ready to sign an end of conflict and claims. That’s exactly what Arafat rejected.

Sanders: What are the chances of another Palestinian uprising?

Barak: History never repeats itself in the same way. …Even what is happening in the other Arab countries in the past few months can resonate here as we saw a few days ago [when hundreds of Palestinian refugees tried to break through borders with Lebanon and Syria].

Sanders: Is that just as threatening to Israel? How do you handle, say, 100,000 Palestinians marching to Jerusalem?

Barak: We have been looking for several months about how to deal with such events. We are thinking about it a lot: how to face it on the technical level, how to block, how to stop, how to deal with such possibilities. It’s a changed picture.


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