Barak: Israel Ready for Unilateral Separation from the Palestinians
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak said Monday that with peace chances remote, the Jewish state was ready to unilaterally separate from the Palestinians, cutting off Palestinians from Israeli jobs, trade and services over the next two years, reported the Washington Times newspaper in its internet edition.
"We are prepared to disengage with the Palestinians through an agreement," Barak, who has accepted a plan proposed by President Clinton as a basis for negotiations with the Palestinians, told American reporters in a televised press conference beamed from his Jerusalem office.
"If that is not possible, we will go for a disengagement that will be unilateral, by ourselves. We can't go on for 10 years like this," he said.
Barak, on a video hookup from Jerusalem to the Council on Foreign Relations, said separation or disengagement was being forced upon the Israelis by more than three months of Palestinian violence, said the paper.
According to the paper, Barak's talk of separation comes as Israeli forces begin carving up the West Bank to separate Palestinians from Israeli settlement blocks adjacent to Israel.
In the meantime, Haaretz newspaper last week reported that the housing ministry prepared a contingency plan for "a unilateral separation from the Palestinian Authority."
The paper quoted housing minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer as saying that "one possible solution in this case would be to provide compact sewage treatment facilities for such Jewish communities."
The minister said that an alternative must be found for the 63,000 Palestinians from the territories who normally work at Israeli construction sites.
"Due to recent terrorist attacks and the closure of the territories, a smaller number of Palestinian workers are presently employed," he told Haaretz.
Only 22,000 Palestinian residents of the territories have valid permits to work in Israel, said Haaretz.
Israeli workers cannot be expected to fill the shortage of construction workers, so additional foreign workers must be brought to Israel, Ben-Eliezer said.
Haaretz said that the government approved the importation of 7,000 foreign workers for the construction industry this week, and enlarged the overall quota of foreign workers from 50,000 to 59,000 -- (Several Sources)
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