The officials said Barak and Netanyahu's envoy, Yitzhak Molcho, spent
nearly a week in Washington in discussions over Obama's offer to extend the
Israeli freeze of Jewish construction in Jerusalem and the West Bank. Under
the U.S. offer, the extension would last 60 days without renewal in exchange
for U.S. military and political support, including temporary Israeli
retention of the Jordan Valley under any peace accord with the Palestinian
Barak, regarded as the Cabinet member closest to the United States, was
said to have spent hours trying to pin senior White House officials Dennis
Ross and Daniel Shapiro on details of the proposed military aid. But
officials said Barak received little more than vague assurances that Israel
would maintain its qualitative strategic edge over its Arab neighbors.
"In the end, Barak concluded that Obama had not authorized his key
people to make any specific promises," the official said.
At a later stage in the negotiations, officials said, the White House
revised its offer and warned of U.S. support for hostile United Nations
resolutions should Israel resume construction. They said Obama's
representatives also stipulated that any additional U.S. military and
political assistance would come only as part of a final agreement with the
In late September, the administration leaked details of the draft letter
to David Makovsky, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy
and regarded as close to Ross. Makovsky, who did not publish the draft
letter, said the White House pledged to provide Israel with unidentified
missile systems, the Joint Strike Fighter, missile defense batteries and
"The Obama administration realizes that these needs would mean an
unspecified increase in U.S. security assistance to Israel once a peace
agreement is concluded," Makovsky said.
Officials said Barak and Molcho reiterated that the Netanyahu government
would not approve massive construction in Jerusalem or the West Bank.
But the two Israelis reiterated that the Cabinet would not accept the formal
extension of the construction freeze without solid and specific guarantees
of military and political support.
Under Obama, the administration has frozen virtually all combat military
platforms and systems to Israel, including those approved by then-President
George Bush in 2007 and 2008. Officials cited Washington's refusal to
deliver advanced airborne munitions, buster-bunkers, attack helicopters and
upgrades as well as air transports.
One example cited by officials was Obama's permission in the spring of
2010 to sell Israel one C-130J advanced air transport, manufactured by
Lockheed Martin. Bush, with congressional approval, had granted an Israeli
request to purchase nine such aircraft.
On Sept. 29, Ross and Shapiro told congressional Democrats that the U.S.
offer contained the sale of aircraft, missiles and satellites to Israel. The
two officials also said Washington would help establish a regional security
regime to protect Israel from both a Palestinian state in the West Bank as
well as Iran.
Officials said Israel's government had assessed that Obama would have
used the two-month freeze extension to pressure Israel into signing a formal
agreement for a full withdrawal from
the West Bank and parts of Jerusalem. They said the White House has already
relayed portions of the agreement to Israel, but U.S. efforts have been
blocked by the PA refusal to offer political and
security guarantees to the Jewish state.
"Obama wants to replace the lack of a PA agreement with U.S. political
and military guarantees instead," another Israeli official said. "This would
not be a peace agreement, but an agreement with the United States, which
would decide our security."