March 7, 2011 - 1:00am

A peace agreement with the Palestinians does not stand in contradiction with Israel's security needs, Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Israel Radio on Monday, saying that immediate action needed to be taken to advance peace efforts.

Barak's comments came after sources in the Prime Minister's Office said last week that the PM was considering a plan to cooperate with the Palestinians on the establishment of a Palestinian state with temporary borders, as part of an interim peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority that would be implemented immediately.

"A permanent agreement has a chance only if Israel would be willing to clearly say what would come after it," Barak told Israel Radio on Monday, adding that "a peace agreement and Israel's security interests do no stand in contradiction."

Last week, Haaretz learned that Netanyahu was considering announcing his peace plan in a speech in the coming weeks. One of the ideas being considered is that Netanyahu would speak before a joint session of the U.S. Congress.

Referring to the planned speech, that would take place during the permier's May visit to the United Sates, Barak said: "A speech before Congress by the prime minister in May is much too late. Action was needed in coming weeks."

"Nothing of value was ever achieved without taking risks," the defense minister said, adding that Israel could not afford to continue down the "slippery slope" of its own international isolation.

Referring to possible obstacles to advancing peace within Netanyahu's right-wing government, Barak said that it was "no doubt that the government's composition doesn't agree with the tasks at hand."

"The cabinet as it stands today has its limitations, making its harder to start a diplomatic process," Barak said, adding that, "on the other hand, once you start it would be hard to stop it."

Speaking in Mevasseret Zion on Sunday, opposition leader Tzipi Livni dismissed Netanyahu's purported peace efforts, saying that the discussion in Israel today isn’t policy but, "what speech will the prime minister make to be on good terms with America. That is a complete lack of leadership."

"A speech is not real content, and hasbara [Israeli public diplomacy] cannot replace policy," Livni said, adding that "Israel's standing in the world will not be determined by speaking fluent English at the [U.S.] Congress or on CNN."

The Kadima chairperson also said that the lack of serious discussion regarding Israel's peace efforts was causing the premier to center on what to say to remain on good terms with both [U.S. President Barack] Obama and [Foreign Minister Avigdor] Lieberman, without any sense of doing the right thing for this people."

"It is possible," Livni said, to "bring the world on board with Israel's interests, which is something that has happened in the past."

"The most right-wing government is begging today to enter negotiations on terms significantly less favorable than those we faced when we ran peace talks with the blessing of the entire world," Livni added.


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