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Israeli defence minister says occupation must end

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JERUSALEM: Israel must recognize that the world will not put up with decades more of Israeli rule over the Palestinian people, the country’s defence minister said in unusually frank remarks Monday.

Ehud Barak’s comments came against the backdrop of severe friction between the US and Israel’s hawkish government over an impasse in peacemaking.

“The world isn’t willing to accept – and we won’t change that in 2010 – the expectation that Israel will rule another people for decades more,” he said. “It’s something that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world.”

Palestinians aspire to a state of their own, he said, and “there is no other way, whether you like it or not, than to let them rule themselves.”

Barak spoke to Israel Radio on the occasion of Israel’s Memorial Day, dedicated to the nearly 23,000 fallen soldiers and civilian victims of terror attacks. The day is observed with a two-minute nationwide siren when people stand at attention, traffic is halted and everyday activities come briefly to a standstill.

Last week, President Barack Obama issued a surprisingly pessimistic assessment of peacemaking prospects, saying the US could not force its will on Israelis and Palestinians if they were not interested in making the compromises necessary to end the decades-old conflict.

At sundown Monday, the somber Memorial Day switches into Israel’s 62nd Independence Day celebrations.

Both dates are traditionally a time for introspection. This year, Israelis are dwelling on issues such as the country’s growing isolation over its policies toward the Palestinians, the growing rift with the US and the failure to relaunch peace talks.

Barak told Israel Radio that “the growing alienation between us and the United States is not good for the state of Israel.”

Barak heads the Labor Party, the most moderate member of Netanyahu’s government. But as defence minister in the country’s past two governments, Barak has not taken down the two dozen settlement satellites that Israel promised the US to dismantle in 2003. Dovish critics have accused him of making Labor a fig leaf for the Netanyahu government’s hawkish policies.

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