Barak: Israel Should Accept Upcoming U.S. Peace Plan

(AP Photo/Dan Balilty)
Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak says that Israel should accept a plan the United States is expected to release sometime within the next weeks, according to reports in the Israeli media.

A spokesman for the U.S. State Department said he "could not confirm the existence of such a plan." But the Web site for the Israeli daily, Haaretz, reported that Barak told the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee the U.S. plan will "be formulated and presented to the parties."

"I believe that Israel must take the lead in accepting the plan," Barak was quoted as saying.

The news comes amid reports of increasing friction between the two allies over conflicting disagreements about future steps. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has so far stiff-armed Washington's demand for a West Bank settlement freeze. The Palestinians have demanded that Israel halt its settlement activity in the West Bank before resuming negotiations. Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority were put on ice last December after Israel invaded the Gaza Strip.

Since then, U.S. Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, has conducted several meetings with Barak.

YNet News, which is affiliated with the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, quoted Barak saying that Israel was "committed to a regional deal, that we honor agreements signed by previous governments, and that Israel accepts and endorses the vision of two political entities co-existing in peace, security, and cooperation."

Barak reportedly also said that Israel would retain West Bank Jewish settlement blocs in any future agreement, while Palestinian refugees would remain outside Israel.
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    Charles Cooper is an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at CBSNews.com, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet. E-mail Charlie.

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