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Portraying Israel as Apartheid South Africa

Defense Minister Ehud Barak: 'UN General Assembly Recognition Of Palestinian State On 1967 Lines May Trigger Sanctions Against Israel Similar To Those Enforced Against South Africa'

'Israel Must Launch Wide-Ranging Diplomatic Initiative To Reach Palestinian Accord & To Offset This Diplomatic Sunami'

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu: 'Britain & France Insist Hamas Must Recognize Israel & Prior Agreements As Well As Halting Terrorism'

Defense Minister Ehud Barak (Photo: Amit Shabi)

 Defense Minister Ehud Barak has warned of a mounting attempt to smear Israel as an apartheid South Africa, paving the way for the enforcement of international sanctions. Barak issued his warning in an interview with the Haaretz newspaper. Barak also played down the danger that Iran might try and 'nuke' Israel, if it is permitted to acquire nuclear weapons. Returning from a visit to Britain and France, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told reporters that both states insist that Hamas must recognize Israel and prior agreements as well as halting terrorism against the Jewish state.

 The stage is being set to stigmatize Israel as an apartheid South Africa leading to eventual sanctions - that's the assessment of Defense Minister Ehud Barak. In his view, this September a UN General Assembly recognition of Palestinian state on the 1967 lines would trigger such a move. Barak said: 'There are factors quite strong in the world including various employee associations, academicians, consumers, and 'green' parties that are part of a movement for sanctions against Israel, similar to those imposed on South Africa. It would not happen immediately. A day after September, people would say look October has arrived and the skies haven't fallen, nothing has happened'. But in Barak's words it would start like an iceberg moving toward Israel from different directions.

Benyamin Netanyahu (Photo: Amit Shabi)

There are bodies in the European Council that deal with imports and exports and they could cause serious damage to the Israeli economy, without any government taking an actual decision. Actions could also be imposed by academic institutions as well as by stevedore unions and consumers and this could permeate into governments. Barak warned that Israel's failure to act in the diplomatic arena was more dangerous that the public realized. In his view, Israel had ruled another people for forty-three years, something that was without precedent. It was possible that China could rule various small peoples in different parts of its empire, as did Russia. However, Israel could not and there was no chance the world would accept it indefinitely.

Israel's 'deep Right' was exposing the state to a dangerous and unnecessary isolation. In the Likud, it was the Levine-Hotobelli group and they carried weight. Moreover, there were also cabinet ministers, such as Moshe Yaalon, Benny Begin and at times Avigdor Lieberman, who held similar views. Barak went to say that the international community was about to end its traditional support for direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and to start formulating a solution of its own. This could begin with the General Assembly resolution recognizing a Palestinian state on the lines of 1967. Such a move would pose a basic shift for Israel and therefore it was necessary for the Israeli government to initiate a wide-ranging political step for forestall what Barak called a 'diplomatic sunami'.

But how could Prime Minister Netanyahu achieve this? Barak suggested that Netanyahu meet with U.S. President Barak Obama behind closed doors, and present a 'daring' peace proposal. It was impossible to suggest an interim plan because the world would not accept it as sufficient. The Defense Minister then drafted his ideas: the Palestinians would receive territorial area similar to what they had in 1967, Israeli security arrangements that would not interfere with the life of the Palestinian state, the refugee issue would be resolved mainly in Palestinian territory and the Palestinians would receive control of the Palestinian neighborhoods of Jerusalem with arrangements for the other parts of the city. Barak stressed the need to reach both political and security coordination with and not against the U.S. - in his opinion Netanyahu could still do so.

Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian border

So what is the prospect that the PM will present a new peace plan when he meets Obama in the White House later this month? So far, there is no indication that Netanyahu is thinking along the lines of Barak. On the contrary, Netanyahu views the reconciliation between Hamas and President Mahmoud Abbas as posing a greater danger to Israel because Hamas might eventually topple the more moderate Palestinian Authority as it did in Gaza in 2007. In other words, Israel has its own al Qaida to deal with-Hamas which has now been included into the official Palestinian leadership. But President Mahmoud Abbas contends that this is an internal Palestinian affair and none of Israel's business. For his part, Netanyahu is not likely to pretend that Hamas is non-existent, unless there is a metamorphosis in the Hamas genocidal goal of annihilating Israel, like its patron Iran. Therefore, it is unlikely that the PM will propose the daring initiative similar to what Barak himself proposed at Camp David 2000 to Yasser Arafat that was never answered by the Palestinian leader.

One possibility is that if 'push comes to shove', Netanyahu could tell Obama that he agrees to another temporary suspension of building at West Bank settlements in order to kick-start direct talks with the Palestinians. This would be a hard sell to the Netanyahu government - several cabinet ministers such as Silvan Shalom, Moshe Yaalon, Benny Begin are of the view that Barak is widely exaggerating the significance of a possible UN recognition for a Palestinian state on the 67 lines. Several other Likud ministers and MKs have also proposed that if President Abbas breaks with the Oslo formula for direct negotiations and goes unilateral by seeking the General Assembly's recognition, Israel should respond in kind by unilaterally annexing all the territory of Israeli settlements on the West Bank.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu has returned from a visit from London and Paris where Prime minister David Cameron and President Nicole Sarkozy were said to have insisted that Hamas must recognize Israel and prior agreements as well as halting terrorism, if it wants to be considered a peace partner. However is it conceivable that Hamas will revoke its official charter calling for the destruction of Israel and the killing of Jews? Eager to improve its new found relations with Egypt and to also bask in the Abbas diplomatic victory at the UN this fall, Hamas will lay low at least until the General Assembly vote. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Hamas leader Khaled Meshall has now said: 'How to manage the resistance, what's the best way to achieve our goals, when to escalate and when to cease fire, now we have to agree on all those decisions as Palestinians'. PA official Nabil Shaath has also indicated that Meshaal agreed to conduct a campaign of 'non-violent resistance' for an undisclosed period. If this is the case, what chance will Israel have of gaining the support of a 'moral majority', comprised of democratic states outside the Islamic bloc at the U.N., that will vote against Palestinian recognition on the lines of 1967. So with Barak and Likud Cabinet Minister Dan Meridor advocating a serious Israeli diplomatic initiative to head off the Palestinian gambit, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has a great deal to consider as he begins final consultations before he travels to Washington later this month.

David Essing

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