Barak: Israel-PA peace deal unlikely in 2008
Defense Minister also says hopes ongoing negotiations with Palestinian Authority will progress.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Thursday said he was unsure whether an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal could be reached by the year's end, contradicting optimistic forecasts by figures involved in peace talks between the sides.
"I very much hope that the negotiations will progress, but to tell you frankly - I'm unsure that it will be possible to achieve results in 2008."
U.S. President George W. Bush has said he hopes there will be a peace deal between the two sides by the end of his presidency at the end of year, and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmound Abbas have made similar statements.
Barak added that, "It needs to be stressed? if we don't reach a deal this year, it won't be because of us. I pin much more hope on the [prospect] of advancing economic projects and forcing the Palestinians to build an infrastructure of institutions and law enforcement."
The defense minister's comments came as his coalition partners in Kadima were contending for leadership of the ruling party after Olmert announced he would step down after primaries in September. Some officials believe the leadership battle could severely hamper the current U.S.-sponsored peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
"We are repeatedly saying to our American friends as well," Barak added, "that without a law enforcement system that begins with a strong police force, intelligence, law courts capable of making judgments and jails capable of detaining ? the Palestinians are not starting to advance in the direction of capabilities that will enable consideration of transferring responsibility to them."