Ehud Barak: We must pull out of West Bank

In an interview with Israeli daily Yisrael Hayom on Monday, Defence Minister Ehud Barak called on the Israeli government to consider a pullback from “isolated” settlements in the West Bank as a step towards separating the Israeli and Palestinian populations.

According to the Barak plan, between 80 and 90 per cent of the settlers who live close to the pre-1967 borders would remain under Israeli control. The evicted settlers would be compensated by the government.

“It would be better to reach an agreement with the Palestinians but if that is not possible, we must take practical steps toward separation.” It is a long time since Mr Barak has spoken in this way. The plan directly contradicts the policies of the cabinet in which he serves.

Mr Barak is trying to re-establish his left-wing credentials ahead of the Israeli general elections, which will take place some time next year.

We must take practical steps toward separation

This interview comes a few weeks after Mr Barak began to distance himself an Israeli attack on Iran.

While he has long been seen to share Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s sense of urgency regarding the Iranian nuclear programme, said three weeks ago at a party meeting that “Israel retains its right to make sovereign decisions and the US respects that. However, one should not ignore the impressive preparations by the Americans to counter Iran on all fronts.”

This was taken by many observers to mean that the defence minister had realised that Israel could continue to defy the wishes of the Obama administration and push for a unilateral attack.

Likud parliamentarians have made it clear to Mr Netanyahu that they will not agree to the prime minister’s ally being given a spot on the party’s list.

The former chairman of the Labour party recently held talks with veteran figures in the peace camp, in an attempt to rebuild his bridges with the left.

Last updated: 3:45pm, September 27 2012