Min. Ben-Eliezer: Israel Only Holding Virtual Negotiations

Infrastructure minister says only release of Marwan Barghouti from jail could 'change things around.'

Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer on Saturday said that if Israel was interested in achieving peace, it had no choice but to free jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti.

"Current negotiations [between Israel and the Palestinian Authority] are only virtual negotiations," Ben-Eliezer said, adding "only the release of Barghouti could change things around."

Asked about the current Palestinian leadership, Ben-Eliezer said "I have great respect for [Mahmoud] Abbas and Salam Fayad, but everything is now in the hands of Hamas. At this rate Hamas will soon take over the West Bank. The only person who could put a stop to that is Barghouti."

The minister then responded to questions regarding Labor Chairman Ehud Barak's leadership, saying Barak lacked necessary support for his political decisions. "Barak changed a lot," Ben-Eliezer said. "He is more interested in listening and receiving advice."

Ben-Eliezer then unleashed an attack on Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu, and stated "I am confident the Israeli public does not forget that it was Netanyahu who cut off 90 percent of the population's needs, while taking care only of the top ten percentile."