Barak to Haaretz: I Was Hurt by Amos Oz's Words

Defense Minister says author's statement that Labor no longer relevant was 'unfair, incorrect'.

The recent remarks by feted author Amos Oz that the Labor Party has ended its historical role in Israeli politics were unfair and incorrect, Defense Minister and Labor leader Ehud Barak says in a special interview for Haaretz Magazine, which is to appear tomorrow.

"I have known Amos Oz since he was a youngster of 22 and I was 16," Barak says in the interview. "What he said hurt me. I think there was something unfair in what he said."

He said that Oz's statement was meant to help Meretz but will end up inadvertently serving the right. "There is no substitute for Labor as a center-left party that speaks not only to north Tel Aviv, but also to a spectrum of populations across the country," Barak said.

He added that he was currently working together with Israel Defense Forces Chief Gabi Ashkenazi and Military Intelligence head Amos Yadlin to advance talks with Syria.

"I am taking action to advance peace in the real world, not in an imaginary one," Barak said. "I am active more than anyone else in trying to reach peace with Syria. The director of Military Intelligence, the chief of staff and I, in contrast to others, are pushing for a settlement with the Syrians. We are the ones who are saying that we must not wait, that we must move ahead, take risks."

On the issue of Iran's nuclear program Barak said the Islamic Republic was a threat but he was not as concerned over the issue as some of his colleagues. "Iran with nuclear weapons is a concrete threat to world peace," he explained. "I am not one who believes that if Iran has nuclear weapons, it will immediately launch a bomb at a neighbor. Iran is well aware that a move like that will send it back thousands of years in time. So that is not the danger."