Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu said at the start of his regular weekly Cabinet meeting today:
“After one and a half years, in which I called for direct talks without pre-conditions, I had, in Washington, the chance to hold a long, private talk with Abu Mazen. I very much hope that this conversation and the others that will come will allow us to open a direct, continuous and reliable link, which is essential to our ability to formulate a peace settlement between our two peoples. I proposed that we meet for such a private talk every two weeks, in which we would discuss the main issues on the agenda vis-à-vis a peace settlement, because I believe that what is currently necessary to move the process forward is not a plethora of teams, but decisions by leaders. I believe that the start of the Washington talks was an important step en route to a framework agreement between us and the Palestinians. We are aware of the difficulties. They are still before us, both in the short- and medium-term, but we will continue with our efforts to reach an agreement. As I said in my [14.6.09] Bar-Ilan University speech, the anchors for peace are recognition of the State of Israel as the national state of the Jewish People, recognition of our historic link to our homeland, an end to the conflict with us and an end to claims, and practical security measures on the ground that are in keeping with the new reality that has been created here in the past decade and which we will face in the coming decade as well. These security procedures will ensure that there will be no repetition of what occurred after we left Lebanon and Gaza“.
Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Post reported ahead of the talks that “Israel is looking into the possibility that it will receive an arms package as compensation from the United States in the event that it reaches a peace agreement with the Palestinians that entails significant concessions, The Jerusalem Post has learned. Israel’s argument is that there is a need to compensate for security assets that would be lost under a deal that would necessitate a withdrawal from almost all of the West Bank … Ahead of the launch of this long-waited round of peace talks, the IDF’s Planning Branch formulated a paper outlining Israel’s security requirements that was recently approved by Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. In the plan, the IDF referred to three requirements necessary for any withdrawal from the West Bank: a commitment that rockets would not be smuggled into the West Bank, a commitment that the Palestinians will not resume terrorist attacks against Israel like during the second intifada, and a commitment that if Iraq were to one day pose a military threat to Israel again, the Palestinians would not allow it or any other country to deploy military forces in the West Bank. In talks Netanyahu and Barak have held with US officials, there appears to be a readiness by the US to offer Israel an arms package if the direct talks succeed and result in a peace deal with the Palestinian Authority. One example of what the package could include are additional F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets. Israel recently announced it was buying 20 JSFs for around $3 billion, but there is skepticism within the defense establishment as to whether it would have funds to purchase additional aircraft down the road” etc. This JPost report is published here.