Barak. Slight straddle
Photo: Yaron Brener
Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Tuesday explained his political-diplomatic doctrine in light of the situation in the Middle East, spoke about the current threats, called for the partition of Israel, but stressed that "peace will only come when our neighbors-rivals understand that there is no way to drag Israel into diplomatic honey traps."
The defense minister said that "we have an interest to draw a border with a Jewish majority forever alongside a country expressing the Palestinians' desire. We have a historic responsibility to look at reality and understand that without marking a border in the Land of Israel with a Jewish majority inside and a Palestinian outside, that – and nothing else – will be the biggest threat on Zionism and the people of Israel."
Speaking at an Israel Management Center (IMC) conference at Bar-Ilan University, Barak added, "We are the strongest in the region, but time is not on our side. We must stand with our eyes wide open and our legs steady with a slight straddle – the left eye looking for a crack or window for peace, but that will only happen if the other hand is on the trigger."
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Syria a 'threat and opportunity'Germany's Der Spiegel magazine reported Monday that Iran's scientists could produce a basic truck-sized nuclear bomb this year. According to the defense minister, the Islamic Republic "is using the dialogue being held and the nuclear research reactor in Tehran in order to continue playing for time.
"It's important to set a fixed and short timeframe for a dialogue and sanctions. The sanctions must be harsh and paralyzing, and eventually effective," Barak said, reiterating that an option of a military strike must remain open. "All options are on the table and none of the options must be canceled."
As for the Syrian issue, Barak said "there is a very consistent stand – a threat and an opportunity. We are extremely strong. But (Syria) has a certain disturbing skill – it had rockets and missiles. It is a country which voices very clear stands – the president telling the world that he wishes to strike an agreement.
"The price and characteristics of a settlement are knows, the gains are unclear. It's hard to imagine what it will be like, but it is in our interest to remove Syrian from the circle of hostility. I am not sure this can be done in parallel to the Palestinians."
Rockets from Gaza to Tel Aviv
As for Lebanon, Barak stressed that "there are a lot of rockets there, and this is not a normal phenomenon. The country is a member in all the UN organizations, it has a militia with members in the government and a party, and it can veto the government's decisions. But it also has a private army and a private, independent policy influenced by Iran.
"In spite of our success with intelligence and ships and so on, this continues. We don't want an escalation, but if this were to happen we would view the Lebanese government as solely responsible for this insane situation and it will be our target."
The defense minister claimed that "Resolution 1701 failed to end the threat in the north. There are rockets and missiles which practically cover the entire country. The Egyptians are increasing efficiency in the south as well, but there are still rockets in Gaza which could reach Tel Aviv.
"However, there is deterrence and Hezbollah is trying to prevent small organizations from firing at the Galilee Panhandle, while Hamas is attempting to keep the extremists quiet."
Turning on to the Palestinian issue, Barak – who received a death threat recently on the backdrop of the evacuation of West Bank outposts – said that he "understands very well the objection to what I represent among the extreme Right."
He turned to "my friends, the skullcap wearers, who speak in the name of the divine promise," and said that "as a young boy, I used to review Carta's Atlas (of the Biblical world) when we read the Book of Kings, and you can see in the maps that the borders of Jewish sovereignty have gone up and down and assembled in accordance with the political reality of that time.
"Already then there was intellect and the Talmud (collection of ancient rabbinic writings on Jewish civil and religious law) warns that we must not delay the inevitable."
According to Barak, "We must take this painful step. There are millions of Palestinians in this region. If they vote, this will become a binational state, and if not – an apartheid state."
The defense minister spoke about management and leadership, claiming that "we are the world's capital in talking. The problem is doing, making the shift from talking. In the face of challenges there are two prominent traits – in business and in security – responsibility and leadership. We must ask what is good for the country, not for me or for the party, not what the poll says.
"We must stick to long-term goals. In the end, the identity of the decision maker will be determined at the moment of truth. I told Abu Mazen (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas) and Bibi (Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) that the toughest decisions are when facing the people, not when facing the rival leaders."