|Close relations were evident at Minister Barak's 70th Birthday celebration. Barak's new statement on settlements continues to show the strength of this left-center-right coalition.|
Ehud Barak: Build in Settlement Blocs, But No New Settlements -Fareed Zakaria
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in an interview Sunday:
We have to reach a two-state solution, we have to live side-by-side - Israel, on one hand, and a Palestinian state. That's basically what Netanyahu said in his Bar-Ilan University speech. And we should straighten what we call the settlement blocs, namely the densely populated Jewish areas of the West Bank, and beside them a viable, normally flourishing Palestinian state should be established.
To tell you the truth, all those 350,000 Israelis are living on a very small fraction of the West Bank. Altogether, these are probably 5-6% of the whole area. So I think that...there is room for a solution. And I think that those settlement blocs which are going to remain part of Israel in the final status agreement should be built and developed as any other part of Israel.
I was the prime minister 12 years ago. I negotiated very generous proposals with Arafat, together with President Clinton. I put far-reaching proposals on the table that were rejected by Arafat. And he turned deliberately to terror. During that time, in the West Bank we were building four times the pace of construction that Israel is executing now.
I was the defense minister in Ehud Olmert's government five years ago when he proposed an extremely generous proposal to Abbas. We were building about twice the pace that we are building now.
So this government of Netanyahu is not the most aggressive in building. We are not going over any hill or valley and establishing new settlements.
Not a single new settlement has been built in the last three years since this government is in power.