News Brief

Ehud Barak played down prospects of a breakthrough in Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.

The Israeli defense minister was quoted in Friday’s Yediot Achronot as saying that speculation over the possibility of an imminent peace accord with the Palestinian Authority was a “fantasy” and “all packaging.”

Barak, a former prime minister remembered for his failed 2000 peace summit with Yasser Arafat, was further quoted as saying that Israel needs at least three years to counter the potential threat of Palestinian rocket fire from the West Bank before it can consider ceding the territory. He poured cold water on the idea that P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas, who broke with Hamas after it seized control of the Gaza Strip in June, would be capable of crushing the radical Islamists in the West Bank if Israel were to withdraw.

Barak’s office did not deny that he made the statements, which could potentially embarrass Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and undermine his recent bid to cultivate rapprochement with the Palestinian Authority shorn of Hamas. Olmert’s office declined comment.

NEXT STORY