Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Wednesday made what many believe to be a diplomatic blunder when he suggested that if a final status peace agreement cannot be reached with the Palestinian Arabs, Israel my have to unilaterally surrender Judea and Samaria, just as it did with Gaza.
In his address to an Institute of National Security Studies conference in Tel Aviv, Barak said:
"We must try and achieve a comprehensive agreement; it is of the utmost importance. We must aim to discuss all of the core issues, putting an end to the conflict, and an end to mutual claims. If this appears to be impossible, we need to think of an interim agreement, and even unilateral actions."
Barak insisted that "inaction is not an option" for Israel, even, apparently, if the other side refuses to cooperate. He was immediately lambasted by several ranking Israeli officials.
"One wonders how there are people willing to toy with such a dangerous idea after the utter failure of the unilateral disengagement from Gaza," Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar told the Times of Israel.
Even without the scandalous example of Gaza, many Israelis have long argued that offering to give the Palestinians everything they demand with or without an agreement that also protects Israeli interests is foolhardy at best.
It is little wonder that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas continues to refuse to negotiate with Israel until Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu first agrees to meet all Palestinian demands. Abbas by now knows all too well that Israel will eventually be pressured into surrender despite non-compliance by the Palestinian Authority.
In his address to the same conference, Netanyahu urged Abbas to not waste the historic opportunity for comprehensive peace offered by Israel's second-largest-ever governing coalition.
"I believe there is very broad support among the people for a peace agreement based on mutual respect and security for Israel," said Netanyhau. "I call again on Mahmoud Abbas not to miss this unique opportunity and give peace a chance. Let me clarify – I have not set any conditions to enter into negotiations. Certainly I will have conditions to conclude negotiations, and so will Mahmoud Abbas. This is natural and it is the reason we conduct negotiations. But this is why I say to Abbas – don't miss out on this opportunity to extend your hand in peace."
Netanyahu and others have argued that while the Palestinians may eventually get some of what they demand by remaining obstinate, going that route will not produce a genuine peace, or even tolerant coexistence. Quite the opposite, actually.