"(Defense Minister Ehud) Barak
returned with nothing from his talks with (special US Mideast envoy) George Mitchell; it appears that he offered the dismantling of illegal West Bank outposts in exchange for nothing," a senior minister said Tuesday.
The minister, who asked to remain nameless, was also quoted by his associates as saying, "The inclusion of Syria
in the statement on a comprehensive peace agreement that followed the (Barak-Mitchell) meeting is a huge flop."
During their meeting
in London on Monday, Barak told the US envoy that "Israel
is committed to evacuating the 23 illegal outposts within weeks or months, not years."
Barak's entourage characterized the meeting, which lasted a little over an hour, as positive, and said progress had been made on several issues – including clarifying the status of construction in existing settlements and Israel's willingness to enter negotiations with the Palestinians and other Arab nations in exchange for a normalization of relations.
On Tuesday Barak briefed a group of senior cabinet members, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman
on the meeting with Mitchell.
Ministers Moshe Yaalon, Benny Begin and Avigdor Lieberman have tried to obstruct Barak's attempts at reaching a compromise with the US, which demands a complete halt to all settlement construction.
However, Minister Dan Meridor and Netanyahu himself are in favor of finding ways to alleviate the ongoing dispute with US President Barack Obama's administration.
The defense minister, who is willing to offer a temporary freeze on settlement building as a confidence building measure, said he informed Mitchell of the complexities a complete settlement freeze would involve.
Barak also briefed the ministers on American efforts to promote the normalization of ties between Israel and the Arab world. Mitchell is expected to visit a number of Arab capitals during his upcoming tour of the region towards this end. He is scheduled to meet Netanyahu in Jerusalem sometime after the expected approval of the State Budget on July 15.
While Barak's office called the minister's claims "inaccurate", one of his associates said the issue of dismantling illegal outposts "was not related to the Americans" and is "part of the defense minister's obligation to uphold the law and act in accordance with the State of Israel's obligation to its citizens."