Atilla Somfalvi
August 10, 2010 - 12:00am,7340,L-3933365,00.html

Defense Minister Ehud Barak took advantage of his testimony to the Turkel Committee, probing the deadly Navy raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla, to voice political messages as well.

"The key for changing Israel's legitimacy, and the ability to get the world off our back, is to restart a comprehensive peace process, to utilize the chance to reach agreements to the fullest, particularly with the Palestinians, despite the difficult price," he said.

The defense minister explained that "Israel's situation will be completely different if it is perceived as a country operating firmly and ready to make decisions. This is almost the only thing that can change Israel's situation."

The remarks were made as US special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah in a bid to advance direct peace talks with Israel. Mitchell was expected to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later Tuesday.

Abbas implied on Monday night that he may give in to the heavy pressure imposed on him and agree to resume the direct negotiations with Israel.

Speaking before the Turkel Committee, Barak added that Jerusalem must also restore its relations with Ankara, which have deteriorated to an all-time low following the flotilla incident. "Turkey is a very, very important country in the Middle East, and we have no other interest but to amend the relations," he clarified.

Earlier, Barak contradicted the prime minister's testimony to the Turkel Committee, claiming that the seven-minister forum discussed both the media aspects and the military aspects of the takeover.

The defense minister took responsibility for the incident, but rolled it towards the Israel Defense Forces, claiming that the decision to stop the flotilla was correct but that the performance was lacking. He also admitted that the ministers did not discuss a scenario of radical violence during the Navy raid on the Turkish-owned Marmara ship.


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