Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak said at a press conference in New Haven yesterday that Israel is fully prepared to resume negotiations with the Palestinians as long as no further violence takes place. He also detailed his own plan for the creation of an independent Palestine that would be physically separated from Israel by a fence.
Speaking at Southern Connecticut State University, Barak delivered a speech on the prospects of peace in the MIddle East, saying that he wants to create an “open door” for discussions that could finally put an end to the daily occurrence of conflict in the region.
“I want to make it clear that Israel is ready for resumption of negotiation,” Barak said. “Under one condition: [the] full absence of violence based on principles of Camp David.”
Barak, who preceded current Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said the people of the free world cannot allow Yasser Arafat to gain “even a single inch” in headway through his “deliberate and conscious” acts of terrorism. Barak said he refuses to accept suicide as a legitimate diplomatic tool.
“It is not about occupation; it is about terror,” he said. “We cannot accept these rules of the game.”
Barak emphasized that he has a “zero-tolerance” policy regarding the role of violence in diplomatic relations.
“We should stand firm on the principle that whoever comes to the table will not get anything through terms of terrorism,” he said. “If you yield to this insinuation that terror should lead to something, it will be a short-term peace.”
Barak said he supports the idea of an independent Palestinian state with a “right of return.” The former prime minister said he is in favor of launching a “disengagement plan” that would set up a fence between Israel and this future Palestine, allowing the Israeli and Palestinian people to live side by side.
Barak invoked the famous words of Robert Frost in describing his proposal, saying that “good fences make good neighbors.”
The fence, which would take two years to build, would span 400 miles and cost a total of $700 million. Under his plan, Barak said, Israel would evacuate its settlers from isolated settlements on the Palestinian side of the fence, 20 percent of the Israeli settlers in the West Bank.
Later in the evening, Barak also gave a lecture at Southern Connecticut in which he called for the United States to draw countries like China and Russia into its coalition against terrorism. He received an honorary degree from the university.
His visit drew substantial criticism from a wide variety of groups, which sponsored a rally on the campus to express discontent with Israel’s policies.
Mazin Qumsiyeh, an associate professor of genetics at Yale who helped organize the rally, said the demonstration attracted around 150 people and comprised 12 diverse groups, including anti-war rabbis from New York and student peace coalitions from local universities such as Yale, Wesleyan and Southern Connecticut.
Describing the demonstration as “colorful,” Qumsiyeh said it drew Christians, Muslims and Jews — as well as Palestinians, “people from the left,” and advocates for peace, nonviolence and human rights.
“We handed out flyers and told them what we thought of Barak and why it was harmful to Jews, Palestinians and everybody else,” Qumsiyeh said.
He said Barak’s policies and proposals resemble South Africa under apartheid and deprive the Palestinian people of their land and rights.