Ehud Barak said Israel must be strong yet open to peace with its neighbors.
The Labor Party leader, appearing Monday at a plenary session of the United Jewish Communities General Assembly in Jerusalem, was the first of three prime minister candidates to speak at the Jewish federation system’s annual conference.
Barak, the defense minister and a former prime minister, spoke primarily about his stance on Israelâ€™s defense.
â€œWe are living in tough times in a tough neighborhood,â€ he said. â€œThe Middle East is not the Midwest. We always envy you Americans for having the Canadians for your neighbors. We have less kind neighbors, and we have to find a way to live with them and settle with them and reconcile with them.â€
Barak also called for sanctions on Iran that were enforced by more â€œintimate coordinationâ€ with the United States, Russia, China, India and the European Union.
Israel would seek peace with the Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese, he said.
â€œBut for Israel to survive in this part of the world means to stand firm,” Barak said. “It means to extend the left hand to open any door, but we should have the right hand close to the trigger ready to pull it at any time.â€