Former Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Thursday said that the Israeli government should initiate steps to end the conflict with the Palestinian Authority (PA).
Speaking to Army Radio, Barak suggested that if the PA refuses to reach a settlement to the conflict, Israel should take unilateral steps to establish a Palestinian state.
Israel and the “moderate Arab world”, as he put it, have a mutual interest in reaching a compromise.
“The center of this common interest is the radical Muslim terrorism and the treatment of Iran's hegemonic and nuclear intentions,” Barak said, but added that “there is no chance” that this cooperation can take place without Israel showing its willingness “to seriously discuss the Palestinian issue.”
“I know [PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas] and I know his heirs, and I suggest we should try to solve it with them, and if not – to seriously consider the unilateral steps that are required to create a situation of no return of a disengagement from the Palestinians,” he continued.
He then suggested that Israel “mark a border inside the land of Israel, which includes of course the settlement blocs and all of Jerusalem’s neighborhoods, the military presence along the Jordan River in which we have a Jewish majority for generations, and which meets the security needs. And on the other side an independent Palestinian state will be established.”
In the interview, which came on the 15th anniversary of Israel’s pullout from Lebanon which Barak headed when he served as Prime Minister, Barak dismissed the idea that the Second Intifada, also known as the Oslo War, had any connection to the pullout from Lebanon which portrayed Israel as weak.
“Did someone really think that had we stayed in Lebanon without it serving any purpose and burying 20-25 guys every year, then the Palestinian national movement would say, ‘We won’t even dare to lift our head, see how the Israelis are sitting in Lebanon?’ That is just unreal,” said Barak.
He claimed that “the Intifada happened because at the time we controlled the Palestinians against their will for 32 years. Whoever thinks that we can continue to control them for another 32 years without outbursts – lives in a world of illusion. It has no connection to reality."
Barak called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s new government to fulfill its “responsibility” and promote Israel’s interests.
“Ultimately, many of this government’s assessments of the situation are correct. There really is a very complicated situation around us. The conclusions, however, are completely detached from reality, that's the problem,” he said.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reportedly said that he would like to restart "peace talks" to negotiate the boundaries of "settlement blocs" in Judea and Samaria.
"An Israeli source" briefed on last week's meeting with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini was quoted in Haaretz on Tuesday as saying that Netanyahu wants to resume talks with the PA, with his goal being to reach understandings on the borders of "settlement blocs" that Israel would annex under any peace agreement.
But the PA immediately dismissed the report, with its chief negotiator Saeb Erekat saying the concept was "completely unacceptable."
"Netanyahu's proposal to discuss the borders of settlement blocs is an attempt to legitimize the settlements," he charged.
"The borders that should be set are the borders of the internationally recognized state of Palestine based on 1967 borders. Settlements should be stopped instead of being legitimized," added Erekat.
Meanwhile, Abbas has continued to impose preconditions on peace talks with Israel. Two weeks ago, he demanded that Israel stop building homes in Judea and Samaria and release terrorists from its prisons in order to resume talks.
Abbas also demanded that the talks must not continue for more than a year and that they lead to the end of “Israeli occupation” by the end of 2017.