Israeli Defence Minister warns of apartheid state without peace
Israel risks becoming an "apartheid" state if it does not guarantee voting rights to its Arab citizens and achieve peace with its neighbours, warned Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak Tuesday night, dpa reported.
Speaking at a strategy session, Barak said that Israel needs to work as a democracy if it moves to establish peace with all its neighbours.
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad joined Barak in calling for a continuation of the peace process.
"This region has suffered for far to long," he said. The Palestinians urgently need a new "political horizion."
"There will be no peace, when the pursuit of the Palestinians for their own state is not fully accepted," Fayyad said, while adding he remained sceptical and needed to see clear progress.
Barak noted that the area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River is home to 12 million people, 4.5 million of them Arabs. Denying them voting privileges would create an "apartheid state," he said.
"And that is not the Zionist dream," he said.
He said an alternative would be a larger country for all peoples, all with voting rights. But he noted that would mean the end of Israel as a Jewish country.
Thus, Middle East peace and a two-state solution - with separate Jewish and Palestinian countries - is urgently needed "not out of pity for the Palestinians, but to secure our future," he said.
"Good boundaries make good neighbours," he added, urging Israel and Palestine to return to peace talks as soon as possible.