We mustn't allow ourselves to be blamed for the failure of the upcoming Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, because we didn't make enough concessions to the Palestinians, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Wednesday at the cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.
The peace conference is scheduled for November 27 and is aimed at relaunching peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
A confrontation broke out between Barak and Vice Premier Haim Ramon during the cabinet meeting, in which Barak said "even around this table there are those who are contributing to our being blamed for stubbornness."
Ramon responded "if we had offered the Palestinians half of the things presented at Camp David, but with serious consideration and responsibility, we would be able to arrive at Annapolis with a document which would include an accord on core issues."
"Every time we fail to offer what was offered in Camp David, we appear stubborn," he added.
Ramon also criticized the representatives of the defense establishment who presented to the cabinet "scenarios and responses" for the day after the peace summit and the threats facing Israel at this time. "One can't say that if the status quo is maintained that would be bad and if there is a [peace] process it will also be bad. You can't hold the stick at both ends. The political echelon must make a decision, and in every decision there are risks, but also opportunities," he said.
The defense establishment representatives said that according to Israel Defense Forces intelligence, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' status among Palestinians is currently weak, and warned against a possible failure of the peace summit. The central message of the defense briefing the representatives gave to the cabinet ministers was that "after the summit, there won't be any positive developments, Abbas will not become stronger and therefore existing Hamas cells in Gaza will grow stronger and there will be a leaking of Hamas from the Strip into the West Bank." Hamas violently seized control over the Gaza Strip in June, overcoming Abbas' rival party Fatah. Since then, Hamas has been essentially isolated in the Gaza Strip, while Fatah retained power in the West Bank.
Several cabinet ministers criticized the defense establishment saying "you need to carry out policies, not dictate them. By what criteria do you conclude [Annapolis] will fail?"