"The connection between us and the US is strong and remains the foundation of Israel's security," Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Sunday in what appeared to be another attempt to reduce tension following disagreements with the White House.
Barak spoke shortly after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for moderation in all statements about US President Barack Obama. "I have been hearing inappropriate remarks in the media recently with regards to the American president and his administration," the prime minister said during a cabinet session.
Barak tried to clarify the delicate balance of forces with the US. "We are the only ones responsible for our fate and the future of the State of Israel," he said. "We alone will decide on fateful issues, but we must never lose eye contact or the ability to act in harmony with the US, in coordination and with understanding, as long as this does not harm our vital interests."
Barak, speaking during a press conference, added that "the US administration led by President Obama gives extensive support to Israel's security."
"The US is the source of Israel's superiority in advanced weaponry, of financial aid of some $3 billion each year, and of spare parts that the IDF relies on," he continued.
"Even when there is disagreement between friends, we must remember that America is Israel's friend. We turn to the US when there is a Goldstone Report, we turn to the US when intervention is required in the UN Security Council, and it is from the US that we received support during every crisis in which Israel found itself, from the War of Independence onwards."
'Political situation charged'
Barak also repeated that a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a central part of the current Washington administration's platform, which requires difficult decisions to be taken.
"The American government is seeking an answer to the question, is Israel serious about moving towards wide-ranging political understandings?" he said. "This concerns them more than the concrete demands that arose before and during the prime minister's visit. The sensitive political situation is charged, and requires initiative and decisiveness. The central challenge is to take the initiative in negotiations – this is our major test in the coming weeks, when the required decisions will be hard to take."
Towards the end of his speech, Barak reiterated his own position, saying, "We must aim for an agreement that demarcates a clear border within Eretz Israel according to security and demographic decisions: On one side, a Jewish state with a clear Jewish majority, on the other side a demilitarized Palestinian state."
Barak also called on the Americans and the Palestinians to leave the issue of Jerusalem and the construction of settlements for direct talks.
"The issue of the settlement blocs will be settled during negotiations, the issue of Palestinian refugees will be settled within the Palestinian state, and Jerusalem will be on the negotiating table with the other issues," he declared. "At this stage we need to progress with the Obama administration, and not get dragged into dangerous corners."