Last night, Israeli Minister of Defense, Ehud Barak, spoke at the Herzliya Conference, speaking about peace with the Palestinians.
Israel, at the moment, has deterrence against terrorist elements, based on the Second Lebanon War, strengthen by Operation Cast Lead, and upheld by intelligence services.
The United States, Barak noted, is entrenched in many problems. Internally, the US is attempting to content with both the economic crisis, as well as the raging health care debate. Externally, the United States is involved with or pressured by Pakistan, Afghanistan, North Korea, Russia, China, Iraq, Iran, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Syrian-Israeli relations, Hamas, and Hezbollah.
The Middle East, Barak explained, is a “tough neighborhood,” where there is “no benevolence for the weak,” nor “mercy for those who can’t defend themselves.” National security, therefore, is a number one priority for Israel. Regarding Israel’s neighbors, Israel must be able to deal with them from a point of “strength, self security, and sobriety.” A two-state solution is necessary to ensure a Jewish, Zionist, democratic state. Barak explicated that 12.5 million people live between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. 7.1 million of those live in Israel, but the remaining 5.4 million live in the so-called “Palestinian territories.” A one-state solution will result in either a non-Jewish state, or else a non-democratic Israel. There is no other option; there must be two states for Israel to survive.
Barak brought up challenges with the Palestinians. Hamas, he noted, is in control of Gaza. Israel cannot allow for the West Bank to become like south Lebanon and Gaza, after Israel withdrew from every square meter of them, respectively, became a hotbed of terrorism. The Palestinian forces, therefore, need to take more control over their people. In addition, Barak quoted Robert Frost, stating that “good fences make good neighbors.”
On a positive note, Barak mentioned the change in Arab-Israeli relations through the years, from the “Three ‘No’s” of Khartoum to the Saudi Peace Initiative.
In response to the religious right who are unwilling to give up Judea and Samaria, Barak quoted Gitin 6. He, also, noted that even in the time of David and in the time of the Hasmoneans, borders change, and that they, too, must be willing to accept that borders change. To the left, who believe that peace is necessary at any cost, Barak responded that “peace is not a religion,” and that it must be achieved with “open eyes” and without naivety. In response to politicians who drag their feet, Barak stated, “enough with ‘WCDIB’ – ‘we can do it better.’” The two sides are not homogeneous, he said, but the political process can overcome such differences. Abu Mazen and Netanyahu, ultimately, will have to have their decisions received by their own people; not the other.