Israeli government make-up problematic for peace, minister says
The composition of the current Israeli government is not really suitable for advancing peace talks with the Palestinians, Defence Minister Ehud Barak said Thursday, dpa reported.
"We have to find a way to move forward and prevent isolation. I'm not sure this government can move forward," he told Israel's Channel 10 television.
The Israeli governing coalition, headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is dominated by hawkish and nationalist parties, with Barak's five-seat Independence faction forming a small minority among its members.
He said it would be preferable if the opposition centrist Kadima party joined the government, but said there was still a chance that, even without, the government could take steps for peace.
The minister, who has been criticized for remaining in the government while the peace process stagnates, said Israel had to examine ways of moving forward with the Palestinians. Israel, he said, had much to lose by remaining passive.
A former prime minister who tried and failed to reach a peace deal with the Palestinians in 2000, Barak noted that, until the United Nations General Assembly session in September, Israel was likely to find itself facing increasing attacks on its legitimacy and facing isolation.
"It is important to maintain our status and, therefore, we should take the initiative in the diplomatic arena," he said.
According to reports, Netanyahu is considering announcing a new peace initiative soon.
Direct Israeli-Palestinians peace talks have been in limbo since the end of September, when Israel rejected calls to extend a limited and partial 10-month freeze on construction at its West Bank settlements.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has made it clear that negotiations will not resume until and unless Israel freezes all settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
For its part, Israel has accused the Palestinians of stonewalling, pointing out that Palestinians only agreed to direct talks one month before the 10-month freeze was due to end, and noting that previous rounds of peace talks took place without any settlement freeze.