Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer on Saturday cast doubt over the negotiations Israel is conducting with the Palestinian Authority and called for the release of jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti.
Speaking to a cultural forum in Haifa, Ben-Eliezer said "the negotiations being conducted today are virtual. Only the release of Barghouti can change the situation. I respect (Palestinian President Mahmoud) Abbas and (Prime Minister Salam) Fayyad); they are good people? But what happened to the 60,000 weapons that we handed over to them? Everything is under Hamas' control now. I'm looking for someone with whom we can seal a deal."
The Labor Party minister warned that Hamas may seize control of the West Bank in the near future, adding that if a peace agreement is not reached, "a third nationalistic Arab movement will be established that will lead to a bi-national state in Israel.
"At this rate, Hamas will soon take over the West Bank as well," he said, "I believe the only one who can stop this from happening is Barghouti."
'Kadima won't disappear'
The minister continued to say that "we have entered our 41st year in the territories, and what do we have to show for it? Two nationalistic Palestinian movements. At this rate a third movement will be established by Israel's Arabs.
"We are leading ourselves toward a binational state, and therefore we have a bigger interest than the Palestinians in sealing a deal, if we want to hold on to Zionist Israel," Ben-Eliezer said.
Turning his attention to the local political scene, Ben-Eliezer told the forum that he was not certain that the Kadima Party would "disappear", but added that the public had a "score to settle" with (Prime Minister Ehud) Olmert.
"I will not oppose unity with Kadima, but certainly not before the next elections," he said.
As for his own party chairman, the infrastructure minister said, "Ehud Barak is the most important person for the State of Israel these days due to the security-related challenges we are facing, which the citizens would be better off not being aware of."