Barak with Gates in Washington
Photo: AFP

Barak: US understands, backs Gaza policy

Defense minister meets with US counterpart, tells him 'Shalit is only Gaza resident in need of aid'

WASHINGTON – Defense Minister Ehud Barak met with the US secretary of defense, Robert gates, at the Pentagon Monday and discussed with him various regional issues, including the easements applied by Israel in Gaza.


"The US understands and supports the steps Israel is taking in Gaza," Barak said after leaving the meeting.


Barak is also scheduled to meet with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon later and discuss the latter's demand for an international investigation of the IDF flotilla raid. Barak is expected to make an attempt at convincing Ban to make do with the Israeli probe.


According to a statement by the defense minister's office, Barak also stressed before Gates the issue of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.


"There is no humanitarian crisis or hunger in Gaza. There is Hamas, jihad, and terror in Gaza. There are weapons and rockets – rockets with just one address: the citizens of Israel," he told Gates.


"A million and a half people are living in Gaza, but only one of them is really in need of humanitarian aid. We are currently marking four years of captivity for Gilad Shalit. His wellbeing and basic human rights are being ignored by human rights activists."


The meeting also dealt with the maintenance of Israel's military advantage in the region, and the two leaders decided to hold strategic meetings between the US Defense Department and the Israeli Defense Ministry on the matter.  

Barak meets Gates at Pentagon (Photo: AFP)


'Broader government needed'

On Sunday evening Barak spoke of the need to expand the Israeli government because, he said, without a broader government it would be more difficult to "obtain the political leverage required".


During a dinner hosted by Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou and attended by numerous social-democratic party leaders from around the world, Barak surprised those present by remarking on necessary changes to Israel's government.


"Leverage in the peace process is necessary and possible," he said. "For this we must expand the government in Israel, because it is difficult to obtain with the composition of the current government."


The defense minister added that "only a resolved effort to break through the shuffling of feet in the peace process can release Israel from the political siege it has been entering into more and more in the past months, which has been expressed by the international response to the flotilla incident".


"An Israel that lays an assertive peace plan on the table will be accepted differently in all of the international forums and enjoy more freedom in responding to security issues," Barak said. "A government that spurs an assertive peace process with action, not just talk, will receive backing from all Israeli people, excepting those on the margins."


פרסום ראשון: 06.21.10, 21:22
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