A peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians will not be reached for at least three to five years, an Israeli newspaper quoted Israel's defense minister as saying. The Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth said on Friday that in private conversations, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the idea of reaching a peace deal with the Palestinians anytime soon is a "fantasy" and that Israel will not withdraw from the occupied West Bank before finding a solution to Palestinian rocket attacks, "which will take between three to five years".
Barak also quoted as saying he would not approve the removal of roadblocks from the West Bank, despite assurances given this week by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that hundreds of checkpoints would be removed. According to Barak, Olmert's meetings with Abbas will not lead to a final peace accord.
"What will determine the situation in the end is if Abu Mazen (Abbas) and (Palestinian Prime Minister) Salam Fayyad are capable of implementing anything in the West Bank," Barak is quoted as saying.