Ehud Barak and George Mitchell
Ehud Barak and George MitchellIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Defense Minister Ehud Barak tried to convince special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell Tuesday that construction for Jews in Judea and Samaria isn’t an obstacle to the peace process. Barak's view is that the focus on building homes is short-sighted and that it will lead the peace process to a dead end instead of helping to create a wide-ranging regional peace plan.

"In 2000, I was the Israeli Prime Minister that made the boldest steps to attain peace, and that year saw the largest number of Israeli construction-starts" in Judea and Samaria, he told Mitchell at their meeting in New York. Both sides basically agreed to disagree and will try again to see eye-to-eye in another meeting in two weeks.

Barak’s attempt to remove the focus from construction was at least partially successful. A source close to Barak said, “The two sides managed to reach agreement on a number of issues, but there are still some differences that require clarification and solutions. The direction things are going is positive and there has been progress.”

At the end of their meeting, Barak and Mitchell issued a joint statement that they “discussed the full range of issues related to Middle East peace and security and the contributions Israelis, Palestinians, their neighbors and the international community should make to this effort.”

The statement added, “Specifically, their discussions covered a wide range of measures needed to create a climate conducive to peace. These included measures on security and incitement by the Palestinians, steps by Arab states toward normalization with Israel, and, from Israel, actions on access and movement in the West Bank and on settlement activity. The discussions were constructive and will continue soon.”