Barak: Israel must present a peace plan with borders to Obama
Prior to meeting with Palestinian PM, Defense Minister tells Knesset committee that future border must bring large settlement blocs into Israel but allow for creation of independent, demilitarized Palestinian state.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Monday said Israel must present U.S. President Barack Obama with a clear peace initiative that includes a proposed border between Israel and a future Palestinian state.
Barak also met Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad on Monday for the first high-level talks between the two sides since they began indirect peace negotiations two months ago.
The ministers made no statements before their talks and officials said there would be no joint statement afterward.
Before that meeting, Barak told a hearing for the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that: "Israel must pull that bull by the horns [during the meeting with Obama] and present a clear initiative that discusses drawing a border in Israel in a way that settlement blocs along the border will remain in our hands and have a solid Jewish majority for generations, but in a way that will enable the establishment of an independent and demilitarized Palestinian state."
He added that Israel must present an "assertive political initiative' to strengthen ties with the United States and moderate Arab countries, as well as curb the international de-legitimization of Israel.
"We tend to ignore the importance of our peace with Egypt and Jordan," said Barak, "and we cannot be allowed to forget it."
The defense minister also addressed the feud between him and Trade Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer over the latter's secret meeting last week with the Turkish foreign minister in an effort to defuse the crisis surrounding Israel's deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla.
Barak said that when he was in the U.S. last week, officials tried to schedule a meeting between him and the Turkish foreign minister and ambassador, but he declined.
"It was clear these meetings were intended to raise Turkish complaints about the flotilla deaths and to demand compensation for those killed and injured, because of which I thought it is not the right time to meet them," said Barak.
Barak added that upon his return to Israel he told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that it would be an inappropriate time for Ben-Eliezer meet Turkish officials.