G-8 pushes Mideast peace, as Barak moves closer to coalition
June 20, 1999
From Jerusalem Bureau Chief Walter Rodgers
JERUSALEM (CNN) -- At their meeting this weekend in Germany, G-8 leaders asked Israel Prime Minister-elect Ehud Barak to resume early peace negotiations with Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinians.
Barak is signaling that he hopes to announce formation of a new Israeli government in the next week -- a government seen by many in Israel as likely to meet the G-8 leaders' hopes for peace.
"Barak looked around and had to define his priorities, and he's come to the conclusion the peace process is the number one priority for Israel," says Israeli political analyst Chemi Shalev. "The big difference is this government views peace as a strategic asset to Israel, contrary to the previous government, which thought it was just a danger to Israel's future."
Barak, a former army chief-of-staff, has methodically been forming a new government as if mapping out a military campaign.
His Labor Party won only 26 seats in a 120-seat parliament in the May 17 election. So he has been cobbling together a coalition government of minor parties to build a 61-seat majority.
The G-8 leaders also urged Israel to let Palestinians live as a free people -- an apparent nod toward Palestinian statehood.
But Palestinians are worried about Barak's sphinx-like nature. He has not publicly said he will implement already negotiated agreements, such as the one negotiated last fall at Wye River, Maryland.
And Barak has more than just the Palestinians wondering. He has not yet met with the U.S. ambassador to Israel, and he's given Washington no clues about where he plans to take the peace process.
Barak's silence has left everyone in the dark.
G-8 summit ends with promise of 'strong action' in Balkans
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