Israeli Unilateral Withdrawal From West Bank Will Perpetuate Mideast Conflict, Palestinian Official Says

Comment by chief Abbas aide comes after Defense Minister Barak says Israel should weigh such a move if talks fail; Gideon Sa'ar: Barak doesn't represent government's view.

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Barak Ravid
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ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

A top Palestinian official rejected a suggestion made by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, according to which Israel should consider unilaterally withdrawing from the West Bank in case peace talks failed, saying on Wednesday that such a move would only serve to perpetuate the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

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Speaking at Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) earlier in the day, Barak said: "We are a coalition of 94 MKs, this is the time to lead a diplomatic process," adding, however, that if such an attempt failed, "we must consider an interim arrangement or even a unilateral move."

"We are on borrowed time. We will reach a wall, and we'll pay the price. People who are now in a coma will then ask how we didn't see [this coming]," he added.

In response to Barak's remarks, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' chief aide Nabil Abu Rudineh said later Wednesday that an "Israeli unilateral moves will lead to the formation of a Palestinian state in temporary borders, to which we object."

"This policy will lead to the conflict's continuation and not to a solution, burying the two-state solution," Abu Rudineh said, adding that the Palestinian Authority was committed to "a final agreement in which a Palestinian state will be formed with Jerusalem as its capital."

"Without Jerusalem, we won't agree to anything," he added.

Also responding to Barak's comments, Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar severely criticized the defense minister, saying that his "position did not represent the government's position, one that is in a clear minority both in the government and in the coalition."

"It's strange how some people are willing to toy with such a dangerous notion after the utter failure of [Israel's] unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip," Sa'ar added.

In another response to Barak's comment, the head of the Yesha Settlement Council Danny Dayan said that "anyone speaking about a unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank seven years after the catastrophe of the disengagement is a lost cause."

"Barak has learned nothing from his own mistake in Lebanon and from [former Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon's in Gaza. The 94-MK coalition needs to be used to bolster Israel, not to weaken it."



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