Ben-Eliezer: Netanyahu Will Surprise Us With 'Serious' Syria Talks

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intends to conduct "serious negotiations" with the Palestinians and the Syrians, Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor) told Haaretz. The full interview will appear tomorrow in Week's End.

"Netanyahu is going to surprise us all," said Ben-Eliezer, who is industry, trade and employment minister, after several tete-a-tetes with the prime minister over the past month.

He said Netanyahu had assured him, both before and after he set up the government, that he would continue negotiating with the Syrians.

Regarding the Palestinians, Netanyahu's plan will be based on a two-state solution, said Ben-Eliezer.

"It's not the same Bibi," Ben-Eliezer said. "He's much more open, patient and relaxed. He's not alarmed or dogmatic. Something happened to him. He realizes that he cannot afford another crash like the one in his previous term.

"He understands that there's a new administration in the United States, which is neither the Clinton Administration nor the Bush administration, and that if we don't come up with a peace plan, someone else will call the shots for us."

"If we find that Bibi lied to us, we'll quit [the coalition]," said Ben-Eliezer, who is a member of the security cabinet.

He said that he and Netanyahu believe the Iranian issue should be solved diplomatically, not militarily.

Ben-Eliezer said the Labor Knesset members who objected to party chairman Ehud Barak's decision to enter the coalition were "terrorizing" the party, and called their conduct over Barak's dismissal of party secretary general Eitan Cabel "insanity."