, JERUSALEM, Jun 10 – Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to accept the principle of a Palestinian state.
"The current government was formed with the commitment to respect the deals reached by preceding governments," Barak told public radio, ahead of a speech by Netanyahu on Sunday to lay down his peace policies.
These include "the roadmap which clearly states that the conflict must be resolved on the principle of two states for two peoples," said the head of centre-left Labour party, the most moderate member of Netanyahu’s otherwise right-leaning cabinet.
"If such a solution fails, there will be only one political entity from the Jordan Valley to the Mediterranean — the state of Israel.
"Under such a scenario, if the Palestinians have the right to vote, it will no longer be a Jewish state, but a bi-national state. And if they don’t have the right to vote, it will be an apartheid regime," said the former premier.
Barak spoke a day after meeting US Middle East envoy George Mitchell, who also met Netanyahu for four hours. Mitchell is due to hold talks with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Wednesday.
The hawkish Netanyahu, who is due to present his government’s peace policy on Sunday, has yet to publicly embrace the creation of a Palestinian state, the cornerstone of international peace efforts.
The Israeli press has been filled with speculation in recent days that Netanyahu may finally do so in his speech.
US President Barack Obama’s administration has been pressing Israel to commit to the two-state principle and to halt all settlement activity in the occupied West Bank.