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Barak: Israeli peace plan the only route to security

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said an Israeli peace initiative was the only way to secure the country.

Barak spoke to reporters June 24 following a short tour of the United States that included meetings with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and James Jones, the national security adviser, as well as United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

"They want to see an Israel that takes its security seriously but is ready to take risks to advance an assertive peace process," he said.

An Israeli initiative was necessary "to prevent our descent into isolation. It is the only way to achieve real freedom to act when there are security events," Barak said.

Barak, who heads the Israeli Labor Party in an otherwise right-wing coalition led by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in recent week has pressed the coalition to take the initiative with a peace plan as a means of drawing the Palestinians into direct talks.

Among other issues, Barak and his interlocutors discussed allowing Palestinian Authority personnel to man crossings into the Gaza Strip.

The relatively moderate Palestinian Authority was driven out of Gaza in 2007 by Hamas, a terrorist group. The United States and other Western powers are seeking avenues to reintroduce the moderates into the strip.

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