Defense Minister Ehud Barak urged Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday to accept the principle of two states for two peoples as diplomatic policy. The two met together with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to develop a comprehensive strategy in preparation for the Prime Minister’s meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama next month.
Netanyahu and Lieberman have until now avoided the formulation of two states for two peoples insisting they want to focus on creating economic peace with the Palestinian Authority while maintaining Israel’s security. They clashed with U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell who reiterated the U.S.’s dedication to the idea of two states for two peoples during his recent trip to the area.
Also present at Sunday’s meeting was Netanyahu’s key advisor Uzi Arad, head of the Council for National Security. The participants were briefed by several central defense figures such as IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and deputy Minister of Defense Matan Vilnai.
Barak agreed with Netanyahu, on the other hand, that the Palestinian Authority must accept Israel as a Jewish state in any peace process. Netanyahu had made this point to Mitchell, and reiterated during the meeting that while he would not demand the PA make such a declaration as a pre-condition for negotiations, it would be an essential part of any peace deal.
The Prime Minister and his key ministers were also in agreement that any peace plan should be comprehensive, and include Syria and Iran in the picture. Netanyahu had also told Mitchell that the surrounding Arab states would be crucial in any negotiations, and their support was also necessary to face the Iranian nuclear threat.
While seemingly innocuous, Israel’s demand that the PA recognize it as a Jewish state may be enough to torpedo the peace process. PA spokesman Nabil Abu Rudaineh rejected the demand on Thursday night, calling it a “provocation” and claiming the Israeli government was creating an “obstacle to peace.”