|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.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, on the eve of his departure on Tuesday to Washington to relaunch the talks, told Likud activists at a pre-Rosh Hashana toast in Tel Aviv that he would be cautious during the talks and insist on security guarantees, so an Israeli withdrawal would not be met by the firing of hundreds of rockets, as was the case when Israel left the Gaza Strip and Lebanon.
"I am not naïve," Netanyahu said.
Then, referring to the 1979 peace agreement with Egypt brokered by Likud prime minister Menachem Begin, he said, "I know that there are two sides. I want to give this time and resources. I hope to find a courageous partner as Begin found in [Egyptian president Anwar] Sadat."
Netanyahu pointedly did not mention the settlement housing-start moratorium that ends on September 26.
While many Likud ministers and MKs are calling for building to resume immediately when the freeze ends, the Palestinians have said that if Netanyahu does so, they will quit the talks.
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.
Such a package could include additional funding for missile defense systems that Israel is planning to deploy throughout the country.
Earlier this year, the US Congress approved $205 million for Israel's Iron Dome short-range rocket defense system. The money is expected to allow the IDF to buy an additional six batteries for the system.
Netanyahu is scheduled to leave on Tuesday morning for the talks. He will meet with US President Barack Obama on Wednesday, before attending a dinner hosted by Obama with PA President Mahmoud Abbas, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Jordanian King Abdullah and Quartet envoy Tony Blair. He is expected to hold separate talks with each of the other leaders as well.
On Thursday morning, Netanyahu and Abbas will launch the talks in the presence of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the State Department.
This ceremony will be followed by the first working meeting between Netanyahu and Abbas, and their respective teams.
The head of Israel's negotiating team, attorney Yitzhak Molcho, flew to Washington on Monday for preparatory discussions. Netanyahu's office said on Monday, in response to demands by women's groups, that it would appoint at least one woman to the negotiating team.
Also on Monday, Jordan continued its efforts to prod Israel to an agreement, by hosting Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog in Amman for discussions with the Jordanian leadership.
Herzog's visit followed a visit to the capital by Barak, who met with Abdullah.
In addition, the king gave an interview to Channel 1 over the weekend where his message was clearly that the Israeli people should compel its leaders to show flexibility in the upcoming talks.
Herzog, following a meeting with Jordanian Prime Minister Samir Rifaay, quoted the prime minister as saying Israel needed to do "everything possible" to ensure that the diplomatic process succeeded, including continuing with the settlement construction freeze. He said Jordan and Abdullah "are making every effort" so that this time the talks would succeed.
Egypt and Jordan led the efforts inside the Arab League last month to get that organization to give its backing to the talks.
Herzog said that Netanyahu was aiming for the success of the talks, and that Israel was committed to accelerated negotiations. He said that history would judge the leaders, who both needed to demonstrate "courage and responsibility."
Herzog also met with the Jordanian Social Affairs Minister Hala Latuf and Information Minister Ali Alayed.
According to Herzog, his Jordanian colleagues said that positive results from the talks in Washington would create a good opportunity for constructive movement between Israel and Jordan, and between Israel and the region.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister's Office said it would update the public on developments from Washington using the new social networks, including Facebook and Twitter. The office recently launched a YouTube channel, including video clips in Hebrew and English on Netanyahu's activities.
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.