Barak Optimistic About Progress in Middle East Peace Talks
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak said peace in the Middle East can be achieved as leaders from Israel and the Palestinian Authority prepare to meet next week.
“There are more chances than the eye meets -- the reason is that both sides understand it,” Barak said in an interview on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS,” set to air tomorrow.
U.S. envoy Martin Indyk will travel to the region next week for talks that begin in Jerusalem and continue in Jericho in the West Bank.
“Of course both sides will have their complaints,” Barak said. “I personally believe that the Palestinians are much more responsible for where we are stuck than the Israeli government. But it doesn’t matter, because without tough decisions of both sides, nothing can move.”
President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry last month began the new round of peace negotiations, winning a commitment from Israel and the Palestinians to negotiate for at least nine months. Kerry has insisted on discussing the region’s most difficult issues -- borders, the return of Palestinian refugees, the future of Jerusalem, settlements and security.
“I’m basically an optimist,” Barak said. “Even if it will end up that a full, permanent peace cannot be achieved, it’s worth the effort to strike even an interim agreement where borders and security arrangements are made.”
An Israeli Peace Index poll from the Israel Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University this month found growing intransigence about trading land for peace, a foundation for negotiations since the 1993 Oslo accords. Sixty-three percent of Israelis told pollsters they wouldn’t support a deal on that basis even if it included security for Israel and a demilitarized Palestinian state.
In the weeks since Israel committed to the new talks, the military administration of the occupied West Bank has moved almost 1,100 additional housing units closer to approval, some of them in two isolated settlements that Israel previously had deemed to be illegal, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“All options remain on the table,” Barak said. “When we say that we are determined to prevent Iran from turning nuclear, we mean what we say.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Lorraine Woellert in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org