July 31, 2010
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the current freeze on settlement building will not continue in its present form, Israeli media reported Friday.
The temporary, partial moratorium on settlement building declared insufficient by Palestinian officials expires on 26 September, and Palestinian negotiators have insisted direct talks will not resume unless Israel stops constructing settlements on land which will be a Palestinian state under any agreement.
Barak, speaking at an event organized by the Geneva Initiative and the Labor friends of Israel, said that the Palestinian side would blame failed negotiations on Israel’s refusal to meet preconditions for direct talks, and would then wait until next year for the US to introduce proposals through the UN Security Council, Hebrew language daily Ma’ariv reported.
Speaking to an audience of 50, Barak also outlined his vision for a two-state solution, based on a Jewish state with a solid Jewish majority, and a demilitarized but “independent and practical” Palestinian state. Barak said a border must be drawn “inside the Land of Israel” and “according to security and demographic considerations,” the report said.
Concerning the illegal settlements inside the West Bank, Barak said either they will be brought inside the Israeli state, added to settlement blocs under a reparations plan, or prepared for evacuation over at least five years, adding that ”Within three to four years, we can resettle settlements inside the state.”
Barak continued that, under his plan, the question of Palestinian refugee’s right to return must be solved within the Palestinian state.
The issue of Jerusalem will be discussed at the end of negotiations, Barak said, although he confirmed that it must be concluded. The minister said there are 12 Jewish neighborhoods beyond the Green Line, the 1967 border, which there is “absolutely no long-term political rationale in us keeping,” adding that the parties must agree on and establish a regime so “no party tries to cling to symbolic matters.”
Addressing President Mahmoud Abbas’ demand that negotiations be picked up where they left off with the previous government, Barak insisted that the only records of previous negotiations are a newspaper interview given by former prime minister Ehud Olmert, and Abbas’ reports. The current Israeli administration was left no written records or minutes, he said, and therefore cannot pick up negotiations where they were left.