Barak: Make-up of Government Is Problematic for Advancing Peace

The defense minister says in an interview that government's right-leaning coalition isn't suitable for advancing direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Thursday that current make-up of the Israeli government isn't suitable for advancing the peace process with the Palestinians.

Speaking in an interview with Channel 10, Barak called the government coalition, which is dominated by right-leaning voices and parties, "problematic," in terms of advancing peace the peace process with the Palestinians.

He added that in order for the government to make progress in this area, it would be more convenient if Kadima, which is a more center-leaning party, was part of the coalition.

How to move peace with Palestinians forward "should be examined with all seriousness," the defense minister said, adding that "there is more than one way."

Barak mentioned the increased efforts of the Palestinians in the United Nations and international arena and said that in the months leading up to the UN general assembly in September, Israel will be subject to mounting international pressure and isolation.

In the last few months the Palestinian Authority has launched a diplomatic campaign around the world to muster support for a Palestinian state with UN recognition by September.

Government officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, reiterated Barak's sentiments, saying that the government has concluded that a final peace deal with Palestinians can't be reached at this time. They added that different alternatives are being weighed to prove that it is still interested in keeping peacemaking with the Palestinians alive.

With popular protests shaking up the Mideast, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under international pressure to prove he is serious about getting peacemaking moving again, especially after the U.S. vetoed a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel's West Bank settlement construction last month.

Israeli officials are meeting with international mediators, including U.S. envoy Dennis Ross and representatives of the Quartet of Mideast peacemakers - the U.S., European Union, United Nations and Russia - due to arrive in the region next week.

Government officials say Netanyahu is expected to deliver a major policy speech on peacemaking in the coming weeks, hinting at a change in direction away from direct talks on a peace treaty.

U.S.-led peace talks, launched six months ago with the goal of striking a final deal by September 2011, broke down shortly after they began over Israeli construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The Palestinians demanded a freeze in both areas, which the Palestinians claim for a state, along with the Gaza Strip.

Israel refused to yield to that demand, insisting that previous rounds of talks took place while settlement construction was under way, such a precondition was unprecedented, and the issue should be settled in negotiations.