The political stalemate continues, the Palestinians are planning on declaring a state of their own, and the Syrian option is again on the table. The cabinet ministers convened Sunday morning for their weekly meeting and showed that the recent developments have resulted in a hardening of positions – at least publicly.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said, "Israel is strong and deterring, and it has a strategic interest in reaching an agreement through negotiations. We must always look at the alternatives – and without an agreement, there is a chance that support of the Palestinian unilateral declaration may grow, and there will be a rising demand for the establishment of a bi-national state."
These two threats, Barak said, "Will not be realized tomorrow morning, but we must not delude ourselves about their seriousness. At the root of the weakening of international support of Israel, and things like the Goldstone Report, lies that fact that Israel has been ruling another people for 42 years. We must end this. Israel has security interests, nothing needs to be done at any price, but we must not get confused, and it is our duty to reach an agreement with the Palestinian people."
Barak added, "Experience proves that agreed upon borders are preferable to a unilateral move. Anyone who makes a unilateral move is running the risk of losing vital components, as well as other risks."
In response to a question by one of the ministers on negotiations with Syria, Barak said, "Speaking with Syria is very important strategically. We are being criticized. We must make progress."
'Mountain out of molehill'Minister Eli Yishai said, "We are making a mountain out of a molehill, There is no need to be concerned over the declaration of a Palestinian state be there is an Israeli option for a response. We must take action on the diplomatic front."
According to Yishai, "Netanyahu is making political moves in order to start negotiations. We are truly interested in this."
Minsiter Uzi Landau was a bit more unbending. "The unilateral Palestinian move is a hostile initiative. I think it is brazen," he said. "The initiative is meant to torpedo any chance for negotiations. It must be made clear that any unilateral declaration on their part that is meant to deteriorate the chances for negotiations needs to be accompanied from our side with annexation of territories in Judea and Samaria."
Vice Premier Silvan Shalom said to Ynet, "I think the Palestinians need to know that unilateral moves will not yield the results they hope for. Every action will receive a appropriate Israeli response."
According to Minister Shalom Simhon, "A Palestinian state today will not control itself and this is not the right thing for the Palestinians. This is part of their means of pressuring (Israel). I suggest to everyone not to be pressured."
Shalom also referred to the Syrian issue. "This is the correct step, but we must not reach an absurd situation in which the Syrians won't move a millimeter from their position and Israel will be the one who has to move from its position that the Syrians must abandon their path that allows Iranian weapons to flow to Hezbollah and gives cover to Hamas. This must be said explicitly so that no one on the Syrian side lives in a delusion. Giving up the Golan Heights is not on the agenda."
Yishai claimed: "On the one hand, they are outstretching their hand to peace. On the other hand, they are embracing the axis of evil. If only Assad wanted peace. If he does want peace, he knows what he needs to do."
Landau maintained a hawkish line here as well: "Assad permits himself to show up and stipulate terms and conditions. His brazenness comes after Kadima paved the way for him. If we apologize, hesitate, and don't talk, the result is what we are seeing now."