Barak: Israel Won't Accept Palestinian State That Perpetuates Mideast Conflict

At Union for Reform Judaism conference near Washington, Defense Minister says supports formation of viable, democratic Palestinian state through direct peace talks with Israel.

Israel wont accept a Palestinian state that is created through unilateral diplomatic moves and which seeks to perpetuate the ongoing Mideast conflict, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Thursday.

Speaking at the Union for Reform Judaism's biennial conference near Washington DC, Barak, who is due to meet U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday, indicated that while he supported the creation of a viable and democratic Palestinian state.

Ehud Barak at the World Policy Conference in Vienna - Ariel Hermoni.
Ariel Hermoni, Defense Ministry

However, he said, Israel would not "agree to the creation of a Palestinian State, if the raison d'être of that Palestinian State is to continue the conflict, and to deny our basic national rights."

"I believe that an agreement – based on [Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahus] Bar Ilan and Knesset speeches, President Obamas two speeches from May of this year and the Clinton parameters - can still be achieved – and thus, saving us the alternatives which are much much worse," the defense minister said, reiterating that Israel would "not accept unilateralism."

In reference to the final borders of the Palestinian state, Barak said that "Israel's own final borders which require major painful concessions will include the large settlement blocs creating a solid Jewish majority within that line and an independent, democratic, viable Palestinian state on the other."

The defense minister also spoke of a recent wave of contentious legislation in the Israeli parliament, saying that while he understood the concern shared by U.S. Jews, he "will stand rock solid against any attempt to curb freedoms or undermine our democracy."

"I will not allow politicized, targeted legislation to undermine the value of the supremacy of the law. The only Jewish democratic state in the world must remain exactly that: a Jewish and democratic state!" Barak said.

The defense minister went on to address the so-called Arab Spring and its possible effect on Israel, saying "Israel is in close proximity to what has been described as a historic political earthquake", adding that on "the hazy horizons lurks an unstable, unpredictable global economy."

"Across the Middle East – in under a year – regimes have fallen and dictators continue to be disposed of. Are we looking at the beginning of a democratic Middle East? Or will the Arab spring turn into a stormy Islamist winter?" he asked.

Barak also referred to the possible effects turmoil in Egypt may have on its peace treaty with Israel, saying: "Whatever the outcome, respecting and maintaining the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel is a strategic necessity; good for Egypt, good for Israel, and good for the entire region."

In his opening comments, the defense minister, shying away from such hot-button defense issues like Iran, complimented the American reform Jewish community, saying: "Your presence and voice is essential to our decision making. It gives us all one more perspective, and one more view to think about. We welcome the debate and value your input."

"The intense love between Am Yisrael [the Jewish people] and Eretz Yisrael [the Land of Israel] has not subsided", he declared.

"The State of Israel will continue to invest in that love and understanding. I look forward to many more years of also sitting down and listening to you, continuing the important dialogue between the people of Israel and the reform Jews of America," he said, adding that it was "an honor and a privilege to be surrounded by the loud and proud family of the Reform Movement of America."

Also addressing the conference on Thursday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said that the Palestinians needed to prove they deserve an independent state before on is recognized, criticizing what he said was a Palestinian culture of "resentment."