Barak: Palestinians could miss ‘huge opportunity’

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Ehud Barak said he fears the Palestinians are going to "miss a huge opportunity" to achieve statehood.

“There is a [U.S. ] president who says determinedly, ‘I am going to put my political capital into making sure there is an independent Palestinian state and solve all the core issues in two years,’ " Israel’s defense minister was quoted as saying in a New York Times article that appeared Monday. "If we bear in mind Israel’s security needs and the demand that a final agreement means an end to the conflict, this is an opportunity that must not be missed.”

Barak is scheduled to meet Monday with his U.S. counterpart, Robert Gates, in Washington.

In addition to focusing on the Palestinians, Barak told the newspaper that Washington should concentrate on maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge and on Iran.

The Israeli defense chief reiterated that he removes no option regarding Iran from the table, which the Times called a reference to the possibility of a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Barak also said that the United States should be more concerned with how to handle the nuclear weapons of North Korea, which will influence Iran.

“North Korea is developing long-range missiles in the backyard of China and Russia and nothing happens to them,” he said. “When the Iranian leadership asks themselves, ‘Should we be worried or just go through the ritual of defying and cheating?’ the answer depends on what happens to North Korea. A coherent move toward blocking nuclear proliferation should start with North Korea. It would have very positive ramifications for blocking Iran.”

Barak said that Israelis should not compare the Iranian threat to that of the Nazis in 1939.

“Then the hope for a normal Jew looking into the future was to flee. We are not in such a situation," he told the Times. "We can defend ourselves against any kind of threat.”

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