(JNS.org) WASHINGTON, DC—Outgoing Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Sunday suggested that in the absence of “a reasonable and fair interim [peace] agreement,” Israel should consider “unilateral steps” to halt the Palestinians’ “slippery slope” towards a binational state (one-state solution).
Barak, echoing much of the recent pessimistic sentiments about the peace process amid unilateral Palestinian statehood bids in consecutive years at the United Nations, said at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference that “a fully fledged [peace] agreement is probably not feasible today.” Yet he maintained that a “daring peace initiative” for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is needed.
“A two-state solution is the only viable solution,” Barak said, because that is how Israel will preserve its identity as a democratic Jewish state.
“It is not a favor for the Palestinians,” Barak said of the two-state solution. The former prime minister praised current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “courageous steps” such as an “unprecedented” freeze of construction in West Bank Jewish communities.
Barak said the belief “that the root cause for all of the problems in the Middle East is our inability to solve the conflict with the Palestinians” is “not true.” Recent developments in the region are “far beyond our control,” he said, explaining that with Israeli-Palestinian peace in place, Egypt would still ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood party, Syria would be still be engulfed in a civil war, and Iran would still be on its quest for regional domination and nuclear weapons.
Although “diplomatic efforts are unprecedented and sanctions are both unprecedented and hurting” Iran, Barak said he does not believe those strategies “will lead to a moment of truth when the ayatollahs will give up their nuclear aspirations.” He said “all options must remain on the table,” adding “We expect all those who say it to mean it.”
Barak, thanked U.S. President Barack Obama and outgoing U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta for “their resolute backing of Israel.” He proceeded to wish former Nebraska senator Chuck Hagel, Panetta’s successor who has often come under fire for his record on Israel, “all the best in his new role.”
“As Secretary of Defense, [Hagel] will no doubt serve his country with the same pride and honor with which he served both on the battlefield [in Vietnam] and in Congress,” Barak said.