Barak Calls for U.S.-led Regional Security Alliance in Mideast to Combat Terror, Iran

In keynote speech at AIPAC Conference, outgoing defense minister says Israel should consider “unilateral steps” and demarcation of borders if peace efforts with Palestinians fail.

Chemi Shalev
Chemi Shalev
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Chemi Shalev
Chemi Shalev

Defense Minister Ehud Barak last night called on the U.S. to set up a “regional security framework” that would unite Middle East countries around the “joint challenges of radical Islamist terror, border security, missile defense and Iran.”

Click here to read the full text of Barak's AIPAC address

Speaking to thousands of delegates at the annual AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, Barak also called for a “daring peace initiative” which would try to achieve a permanent status solution with the Palestinians or what he described as a “fair interim agreement”. A two-state solution, Barak said, is “a compelling imperative” for Israel.

But if both solutions prove impossible, Barak added, Israel should “consider unilateral steps that would include demarcating a line within which Israel would keep the settlement blocs and ensure a Jewish majority for generations to come.” Barak’s proposed unilateral actions would also include security measures as well as a “long term security presence on the Jordan River.”

In what may very well be one of his last public appearances as defense minister, Barak said that while he understands the need to continue with sanctions and diplomacy, he does not believe that these will produce “a moment of truth in which the ayatollahs give up their nuclear program.”

Therefore, Barak said, all options should be kept on the table – “and we expect all who say it to mean it.” And we in Israel, Barak added dramatically, “we mean it. Let me repeat – we mean it.”

Barak said that a nuclear armed Iran would spell the end of the nuclear non-proliferation regime and that Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt “would follow suit”.

In what may be interpreted as criticism of the U.S., Barak blasted the world’s inaction on Syria, saying that there was “no sense of direction and no political will to act.”

Nonetheless, he praised the overwhelming support of President Obama and outgoing Secretary of Defense Panetta for Israel’s security – and wished success to Panetta’s successor, the controversial former senator Chuck Hagel.

The crowd responded to Barak’s words with tepid applause - but no boos. They had been asked in advance to refrain from such expressions of displeasure.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak addresses the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) annual policy conference in Washington on March 3, 2013.Credit: AFP

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