Saturday, May 16, 2009

Israel may be ready to back two-state solution

Pope Benedict XVI (R) shakes hands with Israeli President Shimon Peres (L) during his departure ceremony at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv. The pope on Friday called for a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict and slammed the Holocaust as "brutal extermination" as he wound up a Holy Land tour. (AFP/Jonathan Nackstrand)

May 16 01:50 PM US/Eastern
Associated Press Writer

JERUSALEM (AP) - On the eve of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's crucial visit to Washington, his defense minister suggested Saturday the Israeli leader might be ready to endorse a Palestinian state when he meets President Barack Obama.

That would be a significant shift for Netanyahu, who has made clear in the past that he does not think the Palestinians are ready to rule themselves. But that position has put him at odds with long-standing U.S. policy that supports Palestinian statehood as the cornerstone of Mideast peace efforts.

"I think and believe that Netanyahu will tell Obama this government is prepared to go for a political process that will result in two peoples living side by side in peace and mutual respect," Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Channel 2 TV on Saturday.

Barak said he thought an agreement with the Palestinians could be achieved within three years. However, he did not explicitly use the word state in his remark, leaving open other options for Netanyahu...

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