Benjamin Ben Eliezer, the current National Infrastructure Minister and Former Labor Leader and Defense Minister made the following comments in an interview published recently in Ha’aretz daily in September 2007.
“Marwan Barghouti is, in my opinion, the next leader of the Palestinians. I say there is no need to be alarmed, and that it is possible to talk about the possibility of releasing him. I would consider it. In my opinion, this move is legitimate, even though this person has been convicted of charges that are very grave and I don’t make light of them.”
“There is a kind of psychological opposition among us when it comes to talking about Barghouti,” says Ben-Eliezer. “I don’t have any psychological block of that sort. What I find repugnant is the future we are creating for our children. It is necessary to talk about everything and to examine everything, and to see what is good for the state of Israel. I’m looking above all for security. And if talking with Barghouti results in him leading the Palestinians in the direction of making Hamas knuckle under, then that is what counts.”
“I know that it is very hard to say these things. But precisely as a security person, I am saying that we must look 10 years ahead. We must make an accounting of how much longer we will continue to keep our children in a situation of 50 days of reserve duty a year, and until when we will be investing everything we have in the issue of security. If we spoke to Yasser Arafat, who is considered the greatest murderer of Israel, we have to look at Barghouti attentively, even when he is a prisoner. And we have to see how we hold a dialogue with him and how we find the opening through which the peace process will also occur. We aren’t dismissing anything.”
“In the disengagement there was one element that was lacking: that the other side agree. That is to say, that you had someone to whom to hand over this thing, and that there be an international guarantee. The unilateral concept not only did not prove itself, it is also something that must not be repeated. This was an experiment, I was one of the people who supported it and it has turned out to have been a mistake.
“We are a people who with our own hands destroyed dozens of settlements. We took thousands of people out of there, we looked at our children, who asked very hard questions, and we told them that this was for the sake of preventing bloodshed and for the sake of ensuring quiet and for the sake of ensuring coexistence and for the sake of choosing other alternatives, instead of the killing and the blood. And here we are in fact waking up into a far more bitter reality. Now it isn’t exactly helping us that the Gaza Strip is cut off from Abu Mazen. It exists; it hasn’t vanished from the map. It is adjacent to us here and I have to relate to it. I have to react. I have to do something.”
“If we spoke to Yasser Arafat, who is considered the greatest murderer of Israel, we have to look at Barghouti attentively, even when he is a prisoner.”
On Iran and Israel’s Future Security Challenges:
“Israel must go ahead and look after itself. It has to continue to maintain the strategic dialogue with the United States, but it also has to be completely independent, because we are now facing a reality we have never known in the past.
“Anyone who imagines that our next war will be against planes or tanks simply isn’t reading the map correctly. Our future war, is going to be a war of ground-to-ground missiles and mega-terror and commandos. We are talking about two fronts in parallel, and they are coordinated with each other. We are aware of the massive arms acquisitions of Syria. A huge purchasing deal has now been completed, funded entirely by Iran. According to statements from Nasrallah, whom I believe, on the order of magnitude of 20,000-21,000 missiles. Let no one harbor any illusions – in fact we are talking about a system that in its range covers the whole area of the state of Israel.”
“There is no doubt that [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad is intending the nuclear bomb not only for Israel. Although every morning he declares that his missiles and his bombs are aimed at Israel, there is no doubt that Europe is also included. But wonder of wonders, Europe is continuing to play its dual game. On the one hand it makes statements against Ahmadinejad and on the other continues to maintain trade, the deliveries to Iran, as though nothing has happened. And the most astonishing thing is that in fact Ahmadinejad has already recognized Europe’s weakness. Apart from verbiage, there really isn’t anything. Therefore it is important that we be independent in matters of our security.”
Published in Revival, the English News Magazine of the Israeli Labor Party, October 2007, Volume 4, Issue 1