Hanan Greenberg
January 18, 2011 - 1:00am

Defense Minister Ehud Barak chose to escape Monday's political drama by visiting the West Bank city of Nablus on Tuesday morning.

"We have embarked on a new road, but Nablus is not the place to discuss these things. I came here to pat the soldiers on the shoulder and shake hands with the commanders," Barak said when asked about his decision to split from the Labor Party and establish a new faction.

Barak, who toured an IDF post in Samaria, refused to address political questions. All he would say was that he was the defense minister before the move and plans to continue holding on to the post as long as he saw necessary.

Asked about the findings in the land affair involving the IDF chief of staff-designate, which have jeopardized Yoav Galant's appointment, Barak replied that "all these things will be clarified when the time is right."

The defense minister toured the area with Deputy Chief of Staff Major-General Yair Naveh and Central Command Chief Avi Mizrahi. He observed the city of Nablus and was briefed by Samaria Brigade Commander Colonel Nimron Aloni.

"Despite the calm, there isn't a week in which we don't enter the city and carry out arrests. The Palestinians are cooperating with us," the brigade commander told the minister.

According to Aloni, "There is a fear that individuals who are in a conflict with settlers will carry out different actions."

Barak met with soldiers of the Givati Brigade's Shaked Battalion, Border Guard officers and observers, including a 25-year-old Givati fighter who used to serve as a technician in the Ukrainian air force.

"Thank you for what you're doing," Barak told the soldiers. "The entire region is calm, but under the ground there are terror groups which may raise their heads. This calm is the result of your actions. This is the best security situation we ever had in this region and I fully appreciate these achievements."

The defense minister told reporters that "it's the political echelon's job to ensure that all ways to continue the peace process are utilized to the fullest, as it is connected to the security situation in the region.

"For this security situation to continue, we'll have to combine operational and diplomatic activity with a political horizon including a peace process with the Palestinians."


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017