Former Israeli prime minister calls for ‘global community’

By Rochelle McConkie

In what he called a “uniquely turbulent period” of world history, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak urged listeners to create a global community to work toward peace.

Barak condemned terrorism, saying that it is a critical issue the world should get rid of within the next generation, calling 2007 a “defining year.”

“In 2007, the great challenge is to free the world of tyranny, terror and nuclear proliferation, to create a new birth of freedom for people everywhere,” he said.

He warned that “efforts to block nuclear proliferation are failing before our eyes.”

If Iran “turns nuclear,” he said, we run the risk of other countries following, putting nuclear devices in the hands of terrorist groups. He made his comments Thursday at Kingsbury Hall during the first annual World Leaders Lecture Forum sponsored by the Tanner Humanities Center.

Barak said the United States and other world powers should form alliances with Russia, China and India to fight nuclear proliferation in Iran and North Korea.

“The right way to win a war is to make partners, not archrivals,” Barak said.

Iraq, he said, must modify its constitution to make it more balanced and give Sunni groups a stronger role in the government.

Barak has played a key role in Middle East peace negotiations since being elected prime minister in 1999. While prime minister, he ordered the withdrawal of the Israeli Defense Forces from south Lebanon.

During his career, Barak has led several key negotiations, including the 2000 Camp David Peace Talks with President Bill Clinton and Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat. Although these negotiations did not result in final agreements, scholars say the Middle East became closer to achieving peace at this moment than any other time in recent history.

Serving in the Israeli Defense Forces for 36 years, Barak has been named the most decorated soldier in Israeli history.

He also talked at length about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Calling Israel “the strongest nation state,” Barak said the issue of Palestinian occupation is really an issue of terrorism. Barak called Arafat a terrorist.

“We want to establish a border in which we can have a solid Jewish identity for generations to come-to protect our identity and live side by side with the Palestinians,” he said.

During the speech ,Barak joked about Muslim beliefs toward the afterlife, but some students didn’t think the jokes were very humorous.

“There were so many jokes that I really questioned his ability to relate and accept (Muslims)?others were laughing because they didn’t understand,” said Yasmeen Hussain, a freshman math major.

Barak, who made considerable concessions to the Palestinians as prime minister, said he believes Israel must “always (stretch) out a hand for peace,” while also holding a gun in the other hand to defend itself.

U President Michael K. Young said bringing a world leader of Barak’s stature to campus will help students better understand world issues.

“As we listen to people with these kinds of perspectives, it can help form our critical thinking on these issues,” he said.

While Barak is hopeful there will be peace in the Middle East, he was critical on the timeframe.

“He made it very clear that peace in that region will be neither easy nor quick,” said Dara Kanner, an undecided freshman.

Barak advocated building a global community of faith and courage while not losing sight of other issues, like poverty, AIDS and education.

“As human beings and out of self interest, we should develop a sense of world community to seriously care and respect each other-to lift others’ children as well as our own,” he said.

Ehud Barak