Barak: 20 Jets Outweigh PM's Political Discomfort

Defense Minister says Obama's offer would give Israel a total of 40 stealth fighters, which it wanted originally but could not afford.

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Gil Ronen, | updated: 21:12

F-35 Lightning II
F-35 Lightning II
Israel news photo: US Air Force

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Monday Israel should accept the American offer of 20 F-35 stealth jet fighters in return for a three-month extension of the freeze on Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria. 

"Twenty jets are immeasurably more important than the temporary friction that Bibi [Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu – ed.] may have with some Likud Knesset members,” Barak told IDF Army Radio.
"We wanted to purchase 40 jets, but because of the cuts in the budget we could only purchase 20, at a cost of three billion shekels,” he explained. “The Americans are now offering to complete the missing part of the deal in exchange for a 90-day freeze. In addition, if we can reach an agreement [with the Palestinian Authority] they are offering us a deal six or seven times bigger.”
"The Americans expect us to seriously discuss all of the core issues,” he added. “They will not dictate to us that by Day 60 we must solve the refugee problem and by Day 90 we must solve the border problem, but they want there to be a real discussion.”
"The fact that the Americans are willing to put a commitment on the table is a very serious achievement by the Prime Minister,” Barak said. He warned: “There are two possibilities: either we reach understandings with the Americans, who will find a way to force the Palestinians to sit at the negotiating table – or the Palestinians and the Arab world will reach understandings with the Americans, and we will be the ones who have to 'swallow frogs.'”