Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak spoke to journalists Sunday at the Venetian Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. Barak is scheduled to be on Oahu today for a one-day visit.

Ex-Israeli prime minister
here for 1-day visit

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak is on Oahu today for a visit that will include a military briefing at Pearl Harbor and a dinner hosted by Brig. Gen. Robert Lee, the state adjutant general.

Barak, who held Israel's top office for two years before his defeat in 2001 by present Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, was scheduled to lay a wreath on the Arizona Memorial this morning, according to a spokesman for Gov. Linda Lingle.

Barak's one-day visit will include a tour of the island and dinner at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, which Lingle will attend.

Members of the Hawaii Jewish community were invited last week to hear him speak at Temple Emanu-El, but the appearance planned for tonight was canceled for security reasons, according to a spokesman.

Barak was interviewed last night on the Public Broadcasting System's "Lehrer Report," in a series to continue tonight. He backed the controversial barrier being built by Israel to enclose Jewish settlements on the West Bank, a project opposed by Palestinians and criticized by the United States.

Barak, 51, had a 35-year military career in the Israel Defense Forces, reaching the rank of lieutenant general, before entering politics. He played a role in finalizing Israel's 1994 peace treaty, which gave limited self-rule to Jericho, and oversaw the deployment of Israeli military forces in the Gaza Strip and Jericho after the 1994 Gaza-Jericho agreement between Palestinians and Israel.

A former chairman of Israel's Labor Party, he was elected to the Knesset, Israel's legislative body, and was minister of the interior and minister of foreign affairs. He was elected prime minister after forming the One Israel Party in coalition with other parties.

Barak has been quoted in newspapers in the United States and abroad since a Sunday speech in Las Vegas in which he backed the security wall, which Sharon's government initiated to enclose 80 percent of Jewish settlements on the West Bank.

The United States objects because some of the wall will extend beyond the armistice line between Israel and the Palestinian territories that existed before the 1967 Mideast War. Palestinians say the fence will cut them off from their fields, water sources and workplaces.


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