JPost.com Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST
Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Sunday urged Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to put forward an Israeli peace initiative based on the Arab plan for resolving the Middle East conflict and establishing a Palestinian state.
During a policy review meeting convened by Netanyhau, Barak suggested a formula according to which Israel's security requirements and its demands that it be recognized as a Jewish state could be met. He said there was no way out of a comprehensive regional agreement which included a two-state solution and a solution to the refugee problem, which he said lay within a Palestinian state.
Barak said that there was no reason for a collision with Washington.
"US-Israel ties are deep and close," he said. "We can and need to reach an understanding on all issues on the agenda."
Sunday's meeting, held at the Prime Minister's Office, was also attended by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and other top officials, including National Security Council head Uzi Arad and Amos Gilad, the Defense Ministry's diplomatic-military bureau chief.
The meeting was a precursor to Netanyahu's trip to Washington in May, which is expected to follow the finalization of the new government's foreign policy.
"I am prepared to negotiate with any side that desires to advance peace between Israel and the Palestinians," said Netanyahu. "Contrary to reports, I don't condition dialogue with the Palestinians on recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Nevertheless, progress in the peace process does depend on the willingness to recognize Israel as a Jewish state."
The prime minister emphasized that there was full cooperation between himself, Barak and Lieberman.
US President Barack Obama has said that he believes a two-state solution should be the basis for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, and his Mideast envoy George Mitchell said in Jerusalem last week that a "two-state solution is the only solution" to the conflict.